Russia president Vladimir Putin has vowed to continue with the war with Ukraine, despite Ukraine’s successful recent counter-offensive, saying not all of Russia’s army is currently fighting in Ukraine.
Remarkably and surprisingly, Ukrainian forces captured over 8,000 sq km (3,088 sq miles) in six days in the eastern Kharkiv region, but in Putin’s first public comments on the counter offensive, the Russian strongman warned that he was not in a hurry, and the offensive in Ukraine’s Donbas region remains on track.
He also reminded everyone that Russia had so far not deployed its full forces.
“Our offensive operation in the Donbas is not stopping. They’re moving forward – not at a very fast pace – but they are gradually taking more and more territory,” he said after a summit in Uzbekistan on Friday, September 16.
The Donbas region in east Ukraine is the new focus of Russia’s invasion, as Putin claims a capture of the Donbas is necessary to save the Russian-speaking population from genocide.
Parts of the Donbas have been occupied by Russian-backed separatists since 2014. The Kharkiv region, where Ukraine’s recent counter-attack was launched, is not part of the Donbas.
In Friday’s comments, Putin also threatened a “more serious” response if Ukrainian attacks continue.
“I remind you that the Russian army isn’t fighting in its entirety… Only the professional army is fighting.”
So far, Russia has not officially declared war on Ukraine and only refers to its invasion as a “special military operation”.
Putin has rarely left Russia since the invasion in February. This week he visited the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Samarkand – where he met the Chinese leader Xi Jinping – and leaders of other Asian countries after being sidelined by the West.