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Moscow’s ‘big revenge’ has begun, Zelenskiy says, as Russia claims Ukraine gains

  • Russian administrator claims a foothold in Vugledar
  • In Kyiv, they said that Russia’s successes are very expensive
  • The think tank believes that the delay in the supply of Western weapons has stopped the advance of Ukraine
  • Iran summons Ukrainian ambassador over comments on drone strike

Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan. 30 (Reuters) – Russia has launched a “great revenge” for Ukraine’s resistance to its invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday as Russian forces announced a series of additional successes in his country’s east.

Zelenskiy has been warning for weeks that Moscow intends to step up its offensive against Ukraine after about two months of virtual stalemate on the front line that runs through the south and east.

Although there were no signs of a new broader offensive, Denis Pushilin, administrator of the Russian-controlled parts of Donetsk Oblast in eastern Ukraine, said Russian troops were entrenched in Vuhledar, a coal-mining town whose ruins have been a Ukrainian bastion since the outbreak of war.

Pushilin’s adviser Yan Gagin said fighters from the Russian Wagner mercenary unit had partially taken control of a supply road leading to Bakhmut, a city that had been the focus of Moscow’s attention for several months.

A day earlier, the head of Wagner announced that his fighters had captured Blagodatnoye, a village north of Bakhmut.

Kyiv stated that it had repelled the assault on Blagodatny and Vuhledar, and Reuters could not independently verify the situation there. But the battlefields that were reported indicated clear, albeit gradual, Russian advances.

Zelenskiy said the Russian attacks in the east were relentless despite heavy losses on the Russian side and called them payback for Ukraine’s success in pushing Russian forces away from the capital, northeast and south at the start of the conflict.

“I think Russia really wants its big revenge. I think they (already) started it,” Zelensky said.

“Each day they either bring in more of their regular troops or we see an increase in the number of Wagnerites,” he told reporters in the southern port city of Odessa.

Vuhledar lies south of Bakhmut, close to where the eastern front line protects Russian-controlled railroads supplying Moscow’s forces in southern Ukraine. Mykola Salamakha, a Ukrainian colonel and military analyst, told Ukrainian Radio NV that Moscow’s attack would be very costly.

“The city is on a hill, and an extremely strong defensive knot has been created there,” he said. “This is a repetition of the situation in Bakhmut – one wave of Russian troops after another is suppressed by the Ukrainian armed forces.”


In recent weeks, Western countries have committed hundreds of modern tanks and armored vehicles to equip Ukrainian forces with a counteroffensive to retake the territory later in 2023.

But delivery of those weapons is still months away, and Kyiv will have to fight through the winter in what both sides are calling the meat grinder of a ruthless war of attrition.

Wagner’s Moscow mercenaries sent thousands of prisoners recruited from Russian prisons to fight for Bakhmut, buying time for the regular Russian army to rebuild units with hundreds of thousands of reservists.

Zelensky is urging the West to speed up the delivery of the promised weapons so that Ukraine can go on the offensive.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Western arms supplies are leading to “more and more NATO countries becoming direct participants in the conflict, but they do not have the opportunity to change the course of events and will not do so.”

The Institute for the Study of War think tank said the “failure of the West to provide the necessary equipment” last year was the main reason Kyiv’s advance had stalled since November.

This allowed Russia to put pressure on Bakhmut and shore up the front against a future Ukrainian counterattack, its researchers said in a report, though they said Ukraine could still reclaim the territory once promised weapons arrive.

Zelenskiy met with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Monday in Mykolaiv, a rare visit by a foreign leader close to the front. The city, where Russia’s advance to the south had been halted, was subjected to relentless bombing until Ukraine pushed back the front line in November.

Zelensky’s office released footage showing the president shaking hands with Frederiksen on a snow-covered street in front of a hospital where they greet wounded soldiers.


While Kyiv has received weapons from the West, Moscow has turned to allies, including Iran, which Kyiv and the West say has provided Russia with hundreds of long-range “suicide drones” used to attack Ukrainian cities.

Over the weekend, an Iranian munitions factory was attacked by a drone that a US official said was carried out by Israel. Israel did not comment.

Kyiv has signaled that the attack on Iran was a retribution for Tehran’s military support for Russia: “An explosive night in Iran,” Zelensky’s senior aide Mikhail Podolyak tweeted. – I warned you.

Iran summoned the charge d’affaires of the Ukrainian embassy because of Podolyak’s statements. Russia said that a strike on Iran “could have unpredictable consequences for peace and stability in the Middle East.”

Unlike many Western countries, Israel has refrained from openly arming Kyiv, but it is believed to be dismayed by Russia’s reliance on Iranian drone technology, which it sees as a threat to regional security.

Ukraine, which has received large deliveries of UAVs from its partners, said it plans to spend about $550 million on drones this year, with 16 supply agreements signed with Ukrainian manufacturers.

Meanwhile, France said it had agreed with Australia to cooperate in the production of “several thousand” shells for Ukraine.

The Russian invasion, launched last February 24 under the pretext of protecting itself from its neighbor’s ties to the West, has claimed the lives of tens of thousands and driven millions from their homes.

Additional material provided by Pavel Polityuk, Kevin Liffey, Ronald Popeski and Reuters. Authors: Peter Graff, Philippa Fletcher. Editing: Gareth Jones, William McLean.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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