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Russia says Ukraine's counteroffensive in East, South 'unsuccessful'

Ukrainian troops drive a tank on a road near the front line in the Donetsk region on June 5, 2023.(Photo by AFP)

Russia has called Ukraine's counteroffensive against its forces “unsuccessful,” but Ukrainian forces claimed they have made advances against the Russian troops. 

The Russian defense ministry said on Saturday that in the past 24 hours, Ukraine's forces launched attacks in the south of Donetsk and in Zaporizhzhia regions, as well as in the area of the eastern city of Bakhmut, but their attempts failed to recapture any territory.  

Ukrainian forces, however, claimed they have advanced by about a mile at some parts of the front line in the area on Saturday.

Col. Serhiy Cherevaty, the spokesman for the eastern military command, said the Ukrainian military had engaged Russian forces on six occasions near Bakhmut over the past 24 hours.

Cherevaty did not specify where Ukraine had pressed forward.

But the Russian defense ministry said it successfully repelled all assaults but did not comment on the situation around Bakhmut though. 

Counteroffensive underway: Zelensky

Speaking in the capital, after holding talks with the visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that counteroffensive operations were underway, but told reporters that he would not say what stage they were at.

“Counteroffensive and defensive actions are taking place in Ukraine: at which stage I will not talk in detail," Zelensky said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged on Friday that Ukrainian forces had certainly begun their expected counteroffensive, but that every attempted advance had failed, at a heavy cost in casualties.

In response, Zelensky said, "It's interesting what Putin said about our counteroffensive. It is important that Russia always feels this: that they do not have long left, in my opinion." 

The Ukrainian president said he was in daily touch with military commanders and "everyone is positive now -- tell that to Putin!"

Zelensky's remarks followed an overnight Russian strike in the southern city of Odesa.

Ukraine's air force said that the overnight attack in Odesa lasted six hours and involved eight land-based missiles and 35 drones

It also claimed that air defense units had managed to shoot down 20 drones and two cruise missiles.

Russia also hit an airfield in the central region of Poltava early on Saturday.

The local governor said the attack involved ballistic and cruise missiles as well as drones. He said it caused damage to airfield infrastructure and equipment.

Fighting has also escalated in recent days in the key southern Zaporizhzhia region, said Russian officials.

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