President Zelensky has insisted Ukraine “is not backtracking” in its summer offensive and Kyiv is “approaching a moment when relevant actions can gain pace.”

Speaking via video link at the Aspen Security Conference on Friday, he added: “[Ukraine] is progressively liberating its territories, which is very important.

“I do understand it is better to see that victory comes sooner. This is what we want too.”

Ukraine’s summer offensive has been slow-moving in the face of deeply-entrenched Russian positions protected by vast minefields that Kyiv’s forces are having difficulty moving through.

Earlier this week, the Ukrainian President’s office admitted the counteroffensive “will be quite difficult, long and will take quite a lot of time.” 

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Zelensky also spoke of the Crimea bridge which was the target of a major attack earlier this week.

While Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the attack, Zelensky said the road and rail bridge, built by Russia and brought into service in 2018 was "not just a logistical road.”

“This is the route used to feed the war with ammunition and this is being done on a daily basis. And it militarises the Crimean peninsula.

“For us, this is understandably an enemy facility built outside international laws and all applicable norms. So, understandably, this is a target for us. And a target that is bringing war, not peace, has to be neutralized.”

ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, May 28, 2024
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ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, May 28, 2024

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Asked if Kyiv aims to return Crimea in its counteroffensive, Zelensky said: "The goal is to return all of Crimea, because it is our sovereign state, and our sovereign territory is an integral part of our state."

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Less than 24 hours after Zelensky's comments, the Moscow-installed head of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov, said an "enemy" drone had detonated an ammunition depot.

"As a result of an attack by an enemy drone on the Krasnogvardeisky district, an ammunition depot detonated," Aksyonov said on Telegram, referring to an area that lies inland at the centre of Crimea.

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He did not specify exactly where it hit and ordered the evacuation of people living within five kilometres of the zone, without saying how many residents would be moved.

Aksyonov reported no casualties and claimed there was little damage, but unverified videos on social media showed billowing smoke rising into the air.

He also said rail traffic will be stopped on the peninsula: "To minimise risks, it was also decided to halt rail traffic on Crimean railways."

Authorities later said that two trains going from Moscow to Crimea's main city of Simferopol and one in the opposite direction had been stopped.

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