MOSCOW, Sept 12 (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Monday that Russia would achieve all of its aims in the military operation in Ukraine, its first public response to dramatic Ukrainian gains on the battlefield in the Kharkiv region.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to answer directly, when asked by a reporter if President Vladimir Putin had confidence in his military leadership, replying that the “special operation” would continue until it had achieved its goals.
“The military operation continues,” Peskov said. “And it will continue until the goals that were originally set are achieved.”
Peskov added that Putin is in constant contact with military commanders in Ukraine, and is regularly briefed on military developments.
It was the first reaction from the Kremlin to a lightning Ukrainian counteroffensive last week in which Kyiv says it recaptured more than 3,000 sq km (1,160 sq miles) of territory in the space of just a few days.
Asked if Putin would order a general mobilisation in response to Ukraine’s counter-offensive, Peskov referred the question to the defence ministry.
So far Putin has not resorted to mobilising Russia’s reserves, who number around 2 million men with military service within the past five years.
Peskov also said Russia saw no prospect of peace talks with Ukraine, or grounds for such talks.
He said there were no discussions taking place about the possible demilitarisation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – one of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) key recommendations from its visit to the plant.
Ukraine recaptures 500 sq km of territory in south – military
Ukrainian forces have retaken about 500 square km of territory in the south of the country in the past two weeks as part of a counter-offensive against Russian troops, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern military command said on Monday.
“On various sections we have advanced by (between) four and several tens of kilometres. We have liberated areas totalling around 500 square km,” Natalia Humeniuk told a news briefing via video link, naming five settlements in the Kherson region which she said had been recaptured by Ukraine.
Reuters could not independently verify her comments.
Ukraine and Russia interested in Zaporizhzhia protection zone -IAEA chief
Ukraine and Russia are interested in U.N. atomic watchdog proposal that a protection zone be created around the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, its chief Rafael Grossi said on Monday.
Both countries are engaging with the International Atomic Energy Agency and asking many questions about on the idea, which is aimed at preventing military activities like shelling that has damaged the plant’s power lines and jeopardised its security, Grossi told a news conference.
German defence minister rejects Ukrainian demands for main battle tanks
German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht on Monday again rejected demands to supply Kyiv with main battle tanks.
“No country has delivered Western-built infantry fighting vehicles or main battle tanks so far,” she said in Berlin.
“We have agreed with our partners that Germany will not take such action unilaterally.”