Putin considers Ukraine retaliatory failure

by Mark Trevelyan and Felix Light

(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin, who welcomed his Belarusian counterpart and ally Alexander Lukashenko in St. Petersburg on Sunday, said Ukraine’s counter-offensive had failed.

“There is no retaliatory strike,” Alexander Lukashenko was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

“It existed, but it failed,” joked Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine launched a long-planned counteroffensive last month but has so far made little progress against Russian forces controlling a sixth of its territory after nearly 17 months of war.

US Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said on Tuesday that the Ukrainian invasion was “far from failure” but that it would be long, difficult and bloody.

A Telegram channel linked to Alexander Lukashenko quoted the Belarusian president as joking that Russian Wagner militia fighters, who are currently training his country’s military, wanted to cross the border into NATO member Poland.

He said, “Wagner’s men started pressuring us. They want to go west. Let’s go to Warsaw and Rzeszow.” However, there is no indication that Alexander Lukashenko is seriously considering implementing such an idea.

The Belarusian Defense Ministry said on Thursday that Wagner’s troops had begun training Belarusian special forces in an area a few kilometers from the Polish border.

(Reporting by Marc Trevelyan and Felix Light; French edition by Claude Chendjou)

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