Russia says it has thwarted a ‘large-scale’ Ukrainian assault

Russia claims to have thwarted a large-scale assault by Ukraine in the eastern province of Donetsk, killing hundreds of troops and destroying a number of tanks.

Ukraine has not commented on the claims by the Kremlin’s defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov yesterday.

He said Russian forces had killed 250 Ukrainian personnel and destroyed 16 tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles and 21 armoured combat vehicles. The ministry also released a video which claimed to show some of the destroyed equipment.

“The enemy’s goal was to break through our defences in the most vulnerable — in its opinion — sector of the front,” said Mr Konashenkov. “The enemy did not achieve its tasks. It had no success.”

In a rare specific mention of the presence of Russia’s top military leaders in battlefield operations, he said the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov, “was at one of the forward command posts”.

READ MORE: Anti-Kremlin paramilitaries claim to have captured Russian soldiers

Announcing his direct involvement could be interpreted by the West as a response to criticism that Russia’s military brass had not been visible much at the front or had taken sufficient control or responsibility for military operations in Ukraine.

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said at least 500 Ukrainian children had lost their lives since the war started. The United Nations says around 1,000 other Ukrainian children have been wounded and thousands of others have been forcibly deported to Russia.

Mr Zelensky wrote in the messaging app Telegram: “Russian weapons and hatred continue to take and destroy the lives of Ukrainian children every day,” adding that “many of them could have become famous scholars, artists, sports champions, contributing to Ukraine’s history”.

He added: “We must hold out and win this war. All of Ukraine, all our people, all our children, must be free from the Russian terror.”

His comments came after Ukrainian authorities said a soldier had returned to the central city of Dnipro only to find his two-year-old daughter dead and his wife seriously wounded after a missile strike that left 25 people injured, including five children.

Russian drone and cruise missile strikes on Sunday targeted multiple areas of the country, including the capital, Kyiv.

The Ukrainian air force updated earlier figures and said that air defences had shot down six of eight Shahed self-exploding drones and four of six cruise missiles fired.

According to the BBC, Ukraine has been planning a counter-offensive for months but has wanted as much time as possible to train troops and deploy military equipment from Western allies. Officials in Kyiv have warned against public speculation over the offensive, saying it could help the enemy.

“Plans love silence. There will be no announcement of the start,” the defence ministry said in a video posted to Telegram on Sunday. The footage featured masked and well-armed troops holding their fingers against their lips.

Elsewhere, fighters opposed to the government in Moscow say they had captured some Russian soldiers in Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine. The claim was made by the Liberty of Russia Legion, which described the announcement as a joint statement with the Russian Volunteer Corps. Both groups want to oust the President, Vladimir Putin and oppose the invasion of Ukraine he launched in February 2022.