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White House evades question on Ukrainian counteroffensive

“War is unpredictable,” and only Kiev can speak about the situation on the battlefield, John Kirby has told reporters

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has refused to say whether the US is concerned about Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces. The offensive has cost Ukraine dearly, with some officials in Kiev now blaming the West for their losses.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Kirby was asked whether the White House is concerned that the offensive “is moving slower than desired,” as Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky admitted earlier this week. 

“I’m certainly not going to get up here and speak to Ukrainian offensive operations,” Kirby replied. “They should be the ones to do that.”


However, Kirby followed up by explaining why repeated waves of Ukrainian troops and armor have failed to penetrate Russia’s multi-layered network of defenses, which stretches hundreds of kilometers across the frontline in the Donetsk and Zaporozhye regions.

“War is unpredictable, and the enemy gets a vote,” he said. “It’s not as if the Russians weren’t preparing for defense, and defense is a strong form of war.”

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“Sometimes your plans don’t always go exactly the way that you expected them to, but that’s what’s expected when you’re in combat. What we’re going to focus on, again, is making sure that they can be ultimately successful,” he concluded.


After months of postponements, the counteroffensive began on June 4 with a failed attack on Russian positions near Donetsk, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Advancing without air support and through Russian-laid minefields, Ukraine’s NATO-trained brigades suffered steep casualties. The Russian Defense Ministry estimated on Thursday that Ukraine lost around 13,000 troops and nearly 250 tanks between June 4 and June 21.

According to several Western media reports, continued US and NATO aid to Ukraine depends on a successful counteroffensive, and Western officials have reportedly determined that the operation is “not meeting expectations on any front” so far.

Officials in Kiev have sent mixed messages, with Zelensky urging patience from his Western patrons, and the commander of his ground forces insisting that the real offensive has yet to begin. One of the president’s most senior aides, Mikhail Podoliak, has blamed the lack of results on “the time lost in convincing our partners to provide the necessary weapons.”

Moscow considers the counteroffensive “suicidal,” with Russia’s permanent representative to the UN accusing Kiev of “sending soldiers to be slaughtered” in order to keep Western aid flowing to Ukraine.


June 24, 2023 at 06:59PM

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