Moscow/Kyiv: Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a stern warning to Ukraine. ‘Kyiv has announced that it is launching a counteroffensive against Russia. How this campaign progresses and how it ends is our focus. Russia will not rush anywhere in the military campaign in Ukraine. We are firm on our objectives, and there have been no changes. However, if there is an attempt to put more pressure on the Russian forces, we will intensify our attacks in the future,’ Putin said. Simultaneously, Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, informed that two new battalions from the Chechen region had been deployed for the Donbas offensive.
Last week, Ukrainian forces launched a heavy counterattack against the Russian army in northeastern Ukraine, forcing them to retreat. This retreat of the Russian military has become widely discussed in Russia and globally. Many Russian leaders, ex-military officers and Putin supporters expressed their displeasure over it and put forward an aggressive demand to declare open war. At the same time, there was a barrage of criticism launched against the Russian Defence Ministry and senior officials. The media claimed that the issue would be suppressed or given a different angle, just like the defeat in Kyiv and other areas.
However, in the press conference held on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Samarkand, President Putin acknowledged the Ukrainian counteroffensive and warned of retaliation. ‘Our offensive operation in the Donbas is not stopping. They’re moving forward – not at a swift pace – but they are gradually taking more and more territory. Bear in mind that Russia is not fighting with its full force. Only a fraction of the Russian army is in the area. They are contract soldiers. Therefore, there are certain limitations in it,’ President Putin said.
The Russian President warned, ‘In the last few days, the Russian forces have delivered tremendous blows to Ukraine. These attacks were mere warnings. If the pressure on the Russian forces continues, there will be a more aggressive and forceful response.’ In the 48 hours after the Russian withdrawal from Kharkiv, Moscow launched major missile attacks on Kharkiv and cities in central Ukraine. After that, in the next two days, the Russian forces captured two towns in the Donbas region. At the same time, the Russian troops have also strongly retaliated against the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south. Against this backdrop, President Putin’s warning becomes noteworthy.
After Russian troops withdrew from Kharkiv, the Ukrainian and western media started making big claims. However, senior US officials warned not to underestimate Russian capabilities. US White House spokesman John Kirby pointed out that in terms of military capabilities, Russia still has tremendous military power and cannot be ignored. The two Chechen battalions entering Donbas and the warning issued by President Putin only go to confirm Kirby’s remarks.