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Oleksiy Danilov interview: Ukraine’s counteroffensive ‘ready to begin’

  • By James Landale
  • Diplomatic Correspondent, Kiev

Ukraine is ready to launch its long-awaited counter-offensive against Russian forces, one of the country’s most senior security officials has told the BBC.

Oleksiy Danilov would not name a date, but said an offensive to recapture territory from President Vladimir Putin’s occupation forces could begin “tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a week”.

He warned that Ukraine’s government “had no right to make a mistake” in the decision because this was a “historic opportunity” that “we cannot lose”.

As secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Mr Danilov is at the heart of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s de facto war cabinet.

His rare interview with the BBC was interrupted by a phone message from President Zelensky summoning him to a meeting to discuss the counter-offensive.

Danilov also said he was “absolutely calm” that Russia began deploying nuclear weapons to Belarus, saying, “For us, it’s not some kind of news.”

Ukraine has been planning a counter-offensive for months. But it has wanted as much time as possible to train troops and receive military equipment from Western allies.

Much is at stake because the government in Kiev needs to show the people of Ukraine – and Western allies – that it can break through Russian lines, end the effective military stalemate and reclaim some of its sovereign territory.

Danilov said the armed forces would begin the attack when the commanders calculated “we can get the best result at that stage of the war”.

Asked if the Ukrainian armed forces were ready for the offensive, he replied: “We are always ready. The same as we were ready to defend our country at any time. And it is not a matter of time.

“We have to understand that the historical opportunity given to us – by God – to our country, we cannot lose, so that we can truly become an independent, great European country.”

He added: “It could happen tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a week.

“It would be strange if I had to mention dates for the start of this or those events. It cannot be done… We have a very responsible task before our country. And we understand that we have no right to to make a mistake.”

image source, Getty Images


Ukrainian troops have spent months training on Western equipment ahead of the expected attack

Danilov rejected suggestions that the counter-offensive had already begun, saying that the “demolition of Russian control centers and Russian military equipment” had been the task of Ukrainian armed forces since February 24 last year – the date Russia launched the invasion.

“We have no days off during this war,” he said.

He defended Ukraine’s army’s decision to fight in Bakhmut for so many months, a battle that has claimed the lives of many of its soldiers.

“Bakhmut is our country, our territory, and we must defend it,” he said. “If we start leaving every settlement, it could get us to our western border, which Putin wanted from the first days of the war.”

He said that “we only control a small part of the city, and we admit that. But you have to remember that Bakhmut has played a big part in this war.”

Asked if Wagner mercenaries were leaving, he replied, “Yes, it’s happening. But that doesn’t mean they’ll stop fighting with us. They’ll concentrate more on other fronts… they’re regrouping to three other places. “

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See: Was Russian warship attacked by Ukrainian drone boats?

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