Ukraine has plan for new offensive against Russia, says Zelensky

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during 'Ukraine. Year 2024' conference, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv. Photo: Reuters

Kyiv:Ukraine has a clear plan for a new counteroffensive against Russian forces, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday, adding that he could not disclose details publicly.

Kyiv's troops conducted a counteroffensive last year, but were unable to break through prepared defensive lines in the Russian-occupied south and east.

"There is a plan (for a counteroffensive), the plan is clear, I can't tell you the details," Zelensky told a news conference in the capital Kyiv.

He said that a major military shakeup that saw the head of Ukraine's military replaced earlier this month was connected to the new plan of action on the battlefield.

"This plan is related to the change of management, there are corresponding changes. Several plans will be prepared due to a leak of information," Zelensky said, without elaborating.

Zelensky said earlier that Kyiv's plans to conduct a counteroffensive last year had been leaked and ended up "on a desk in the Kremlin" before the operation had even begun. He did not say how that leak had occurred.

Zelensky also said that troop rotations were critically important for the war effort and that Ukraine needed to better prepare its reserve forces.

"31,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed in this war. Not 300,000, not 150,000 ... (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is lying there ... But nevertheless, this is a big loss for us."

Ukraine has not put a number to its military losses since the end of 2022, when presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since the invasion on Feb. 24.

Battlefield casualties are a highly sensitive subject in a country trying to reform how it mobilises civilians into the army to regenerate its forces after last year's counteroffensive proved unable to break through Russian lines. A New York Times report in August cited U.S. officials as putting the Ukrainian death toll at close to 70,000. The same report said as many as 120,000 Russian troops had died during the war.

Zelensky told reporters that 180,000 Russians had been killed in the fighting. Russia does not disclose military losses, which it regards as secret. Both sides regularly describe the other's military losses as vast.

The Ukrainian leader also said that tens of thousands of civilians had been killed in the occupied areas of the country during the war. Kyiv says it cannot accurately assess the scale of such losses because it does not have access.

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