President Voldymyr Zelensky, made his most aggressive declaration yet gave Russian troops the option of leaving the country immediately or risking annihilation in the face of his country’s long-awaited Spring offensive, Tuesday news reports said.
Asked by reporters about the country’s military plans in the coming weeks, Zelensky said "I’m not going to talk about specifics, because I’m not going to give the terrorists from the Russian Federation the opportunity to prepare for our plans for liberation. But it will happen, and they should know that. They still have time to leave, otherwise we will destroy them."
Zelensky made the comments, reported by the Ukrinform news agency, during a tour of a school basement that been used by Russian troops in March 2022 to imprison 367 local residents, including 50 children and several babies in the northern village Yahidne.
During their 28-day captivity in a 200-square meter space eleven people died in the cramped conditions, because of sickness, hunger or thirst. Russian soldiers shot another ten civilians dead.
“After seeing all of this I can only wish that Russian President (Vladimir) Putin should spend the rest of his life in a basement with just [a] bucket for a toilet,” Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian chief executive attended a memorial ceremony for the dead after which he chaired a meeting of the national military leadership. They discussed detailed plans for the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s (AFU) upcoming offensive in what was described as a “Fully-fledged meeting [with] fully-fledged coordination [and] fully-fledged preparation of our actions for the liberation of Ukrainian lands … We are getting stronger every day. Every day we are getting closer to the day when the terrorist state will be held to account,” Zelensky said in a video published by the Presidential Administration.
Zelensky’s combative comments came one day after Oleksandr Syrsky, head of Ukraine’s ground forces, toured units defending the battleground city of Bakhmut and said Russian army efforts to assault Ukrainian fortifications were fruitless.
“The enemy is getting weaker and trying to cover his new failures with new faked reports of Bakhmut having been captured. But the truth is that the successful work of the Armed Forces of Ukraine disproves all the efforts of Russian propagandists," Syrsky said.
Zelensky, Srysky and Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, among other members of Ukraine’s national leadership, have, since January, stated repeatedly that the AFU will kick off a major offensive in Spring with the objectives of liberating territory and inflicting a major ground-based defeat on the Russian army. The exact timing, scale and location of the assault are tightly-guarded military secrets.
Russian pundits have warned that close to 100 NATO-standard tanks, backed by hundreds of American and German first-tier infantry fighting vehicles, with practiced crews trained at NATO military bases, will spearhead the impending Ukrainian assault.
Kremlin critic Igor Girkin, who fought with Russian mercenary forces in easter Ukraine in 2014-2016 and is wanted for his role in the shooting down of flight MH17, published a video on his Telegram channel on Monday Apr. 3, where he said that the upcoming Ukrainian attack “has every chance of inflicting a major defeat [on Russian forces].” As in past declarations, he claimed poor generalship and Kremlin infighting would hamstring the Russian war effort.
Russian officials and state information platforms, however, remain defiant. An Apr. 4 statement from the Russian Army Chief of Staff ,claimed Russian troops were advancing in Bakhmut and other sectors, destroying multiple AFU armored vehicles and combat aircraft, and that Moscow’s plan to take over Ukraine’s eastern regions was proceeding successfully.
Ukraine’s Army General Staff on Monday reported its intelligence operatives had uncovered ongoing plans being made by Russian occupation authorities in Kherson and Zaporizhia regions for emergency evacuation in the event of Kyiv’s assault.
Ukrainian army commander, General Valery Zaluzhny is, according to most military observers, reasonably likely to launch a major offensive in the southern sector of the front. This would have the goal of reaching the Black Sea, placing the Russian-occupied Crimea peninsula, a heavily-militarized region and home base to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, within the envelope of long-range Ukrainian precision-guided bombs and missiles.
Zaluzhny’s last offensive, carried out in October and November, caught Russian commanders flat-footed as he telegraphed there would be a major attack in the southern Kherson region, only to launch a successful, blitzkrieg-style assault in the north-eastern Kharkiv region.
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