Ukraine is prepared to commence its long-anticipated counteroffensive against Russian forces.
Oleksiy Danilov would not specify a date, but said an assault to retake territory from President Vladimir Putin’s occupying forces could commence “tomorrow, the next day, or in a week.”
He cautioned that the Ukrainian government had “no right to make a mistake” because this was a “historical opportunity” that “we cannot miss.”
As the secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, Mr. Danilov is at the center of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s de facto war cabinet.
During the interview, he also confirmed that some Wagner mercenary forces were withdrawing from the city of Bakhmut, the site of the war’s bloodiest battle to date – but he added that they were “regrouping in three other locations” and “it does not mean that they will stop fighting with us.”
Mr. Danilov also stated that he was “absolutely calm” about Russia’s deployment of nuclear weapons to Belarus, stating, “For us, this is not news.”
Ukraine has spent months preparing a counteroffensive. However, it desired as much time as possible to train soldiers and receive military supplies from its Western allies.
Russian forces have been fortifying their defenses in the interim.
The Ukrainian government must demonstrate to the Ukrainian people and its Western allies that it can break through Russian lines, end the military stalemate, and recapture some of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
Mr. Danilov stated that the military would launch the assault when commanders determined “we can achieve the best possible outcome at that point in the war.”
When asked if the Ukrainian military was prepared for the offensive, he responded, “We are always ready.” Similarly, we were always prepared to defend our nation. It is also not a matter of time.
“We must recognize that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that God has granted to our nation so that we can become a truly independent, major European nation.”
He added, “It could occur tomorrow, the next day, or in a week.
“It would be odd for me to specify the beginning dates of that or those occurrences. That is not possible… Our nation faces a very weighty responsibility. And we recognize that we have no right to make errors.”
Mr. Danilov refuted claims that the counteroffensive had already begun, stating that “demolishing Russian control centers and Russian military equipment” had been the Ukrainian military’s mission since February 24 of last year.
“We have no days off during this war,” he stated.
He defended the Ukrainian army’s decision to fight in Bakhmut for so many months, a decision that resulted in the deaths of many Ukrainian soldiers.
“Bakhmut is our land, our territory, and we must defend it,” he declared. If we begin abandoning every settlement, we could reach our western border, as Putin desired from the beginning of the conflict.
He stated, “We acknowledge that we control only a small portion of the city. However, you must remember that Bakhmut has played a significant role in this conflict.”
When asked if Wagner mercenaries were departing, he responded, “Yes, that is taking place.” However, this does not mean they will cease contending with us. They will focus more on other fronts… they are regrouping in three other locations.”