Ukraine ‘increasingly ready’ for counteroffensive, western officials say

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Ukraine is approaching an increased “state of readiness” to launch its expected counteroffensive against the Russian occupation, western officials say.

Troops have “much higher” morale than Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces as they gear up to free territories within their country’s borders, they suggested.

Asked what would qualify as a successful operation, one western official said Ukrainians have to be “able to show that they are having momentum” with “more than piecemeal penny packets of forces going forward.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky UK visit
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at Chequers, in Buckinghamshire (Carl Court/PA)

“It is genuinely hard to assess around the morale or morale component of fighting power but we would assess morale … is much higher in Ukrainian forces than it is in the Russian,” they added.

It comes after Ukraine said its air defences, bolstered by sophisticated western-supplied systems, thwarted an intense Russian bombardment on Kyiv.

UK ambassador in the capital Melinda Simmons tweeted that the barrage was “pretty intense”, adding: “Bangs and shaking walls are not an easy night.”

It was the eighth time this month that Russian air raids targeted Kyiv in a clear escalation ahead of the widely anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive using newly procured advanced western weapons.

Western officials said “potentially up to six” Kinzhal hypersonic missiles were knocked out, a weapon Mr Putin would have previously considered “impossible to shoot down”.

The minister told a press conference in Berlin: “The political issue of whether Ukraine goes headlong straight into Nato (after the conflict) is an issue that has to be decided by 31 nations … hopefully it will be 32 soon. I think it’s really important that I don’t speak on behalf of that alliance, I speak only on behalf of the United Kingdom.

“We’ve always said there should be a roadmap towards it … but I think the here and now is how we can keep them in the momentum to defend their country, then build their resilience, and then let’s have that discussion about membership at a future date.”

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