Volodymyr Zelensky hailed on Tuesday Ukranian forces seizing territory “in all directions” across a swathe of the east of the war-torn country.
In his most upbeat assessment so far of Ukraine’s counter-offensive, he said in his late night address that “this is a happy day”.
Ukrainian troops appeared to have gained ground amid the turmoil in the Russian military sparked by the Wagner Group revolt.
Addressing the nation on Monday night, Mr Zelensky said: “Today – the front. Donetsk region, Zaporizhzhia. Our warriors, our frontline positions, areas of active operations at the front.
“Today, our warriors have advanced in all directions, and this is a happy day. I wished the guys more days like this.”
Ukranian units were also said to have made advances around the eastern town of Bakhmut.
In its latest intelligence update, the Ministry of Defence in London said: “Ukrainian Airborne forces have made small advances east from the village of Krasnohorivka, near Donetsk city, which sits on the old Line of Control.
“This is one of the first instances since Russia’s February 2022 invasion that Ukrainian forces have highly likely recaptured an area of territory occupied by Russia since 2014.”
The briefing added: “Recent multiple concurrent Ukrainian assaults throughout the Donbas have likely overstretched Donetsk People’s Republic and Chechen forces operating in this area.”
Mr Zelensky’s comments contrasted with Vladimir Putin’s threats and angry condemnation of the leaders of the failed Wagner Group revolt.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told MPs on Monday that Ukraine, not Russia, now had the “strategic patience” to win the war launched by Putin in February 2022.
Putin, in a televised address on Monday, made his first public comment since Saturday’s armed revolt led by mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, and confirmed reports on social media that Wagner forces had downed Russian aircraft in the fighting.
He said Russia’s enemies wanted to see the country “choke in bloody civil strife”, before singling out the actions of the pilots.
“The courage and self-sacrifice of the fallen heroes-pilots saved Russia from tragic devastating consequences,” Putin said, adding that the rebellion threatened Russia’s very existence and those behind it would be punished.
There has been no official information about how many pilots died or how many aircraft were shot down.
Some Russian Telegram channels monitoring Russia’s military activity, including the blog Rybar with more than a million subscribers, reported on Saturday that 13 Russian pilots were killed during the day-long mutiny.
Among the aircraft downed were three Mi-8 MTPR electronic warfare helicopters, and an Il-18 aircraft with its crew, Rybar reported.
The claims could not be independently verified.
Wagner leader Prigozhin’s plane was reported early on Tuesday to be heading for Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
Earlier, he spoke in an 11-minute audio message posted on his press service’s Telegram channel before Putin’s address.
He said his men had been forced to shoot down helicopters that attacked them as they drove nearly 800km (500 miles) towards the capital, before abruptly calling off the uprising.
Numerous Western leaders saw the unrest as exposing Putin’s vulnerability following his decision to invade Ukraine 16 months ago.
Prigozhin, 62, a former Putin ally and ex-convict whose forces have fought the bloodiest battles of the Ukraine war, defied orders this month to place his troops under Defence Ministry command.
Last seen on Saturday night smiling and high-fiving bystanders from the back of an SUV as he withdrew from the Russian city of Rostov occupied by his men, Prigozhin said his fighters had halted their campaign to avert bloodshed.
Military experts say his forces were facing defeat.
The Wagner boss added that he was leaving for Belarus under a deal brokered by its president, Alexander Lukashenko. In Monday’s remarks, he said Lukashenko had offered to let Wagner operate under a legal framework, but did not elaborate.
Source : Standard