US army chief says Ukraine has ’30 days’ of fighting weather left
Ukraine has about 30 to 45 days before the weather will start to spoil its counter-offensive against Russia, the highest ranking US military chief has said.
General Mark Milley told the BBC colder and wetter weather conditions will make it harder for Ukrainian forces to manouevre.
Noting the “very steady progress” Ukraine has made so far in its war efforts, General Milley predicts that there’s still around “30 to 45 days” of fighting weather left for troops to gain even more ground.
He said: “The Ukrainians aren’t done. This battle’s not done. They haven’t finished the fighting part of what they’re trying to accomplish. So we’ll see. It’s too early to say how this is going to end.”
Zelensky’s army has achieved some success in its counter-offensive efforts so far – but things will only get tougher as temperatures start to drop from mid-October.
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The top general added: “Then you’ll get the deep winter and then at that point we’ll see where things go.”
Temperatures regularly plummet to minus figures in the winter, making conditions fighting conditions much harder to predict.
Gen. Milley, who is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added it was “way too early” to determine whether Ukraine’s counter-offensive has “failed or not failed”.
He said: “There’s still heavy fighting going on. The Ukrainians are still plugging away with steady progress through the various defensive elements that the Russians have put in place.”
Ukraine is three months into its counter-offensive and has so far made modest progress along its southern axis in the Zaporizhia region.
The aim in this southern region is to sever Russian President Vladimir Putin’s land bridge linking Russia to Crimea, which was illegally annexed in 2014.
Some allies of Ukraine have seen its struggle to retain ground faster as a reason to bring Kyiv to the negotiating table with Moscow while others have signalled in public they intend to stay the course.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in an interview with The Economist, said: “If you are not with Ukraine, you are with Russia, and if you are not with Russia, you are with Ukraine. And if partners do not help us, it means they will help Russia to win. That is it.”
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Britain’s Chief of the Defence Staff, told the BBC that Ukraine is “winning” because Russia has failed to bring the country under its control.
He said: “That is because the aim of Russia was to subjugate Ukraine and to put it under Russia’s control.
“That has not happened and it never will happen, and that’s why Ukraine is winning.”
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Sir Tony’s upbeat assessment comes amid debate over whether war fatigue may set in across the West as the war in Ukraine drags on.
There are also concerns over whether US support for Kyiv could undergo a major pivot if former US president Donald Trump wins the next election in November 2024.
Western officials argue that the war has so far been a “catastrophic failure” for Putin and Ukrainian progress cannot simply be measured in metres gained on the battlefield.
But officials acknowledged the pace of the counter-offensive has fallen short of western expectations.
Despite this, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Ukraine this week in an unannounced trip aimed to show confidence in Kyiv’s forces.
Mr Blinken said during the visit: “We want to make sure Ukraine has what it needs, not only to succeed in the counteroffensive but has what it needs for the long-term, to make sure that it has a strong deterrent.
“We’re also determined to continue to work with our partners as they build and rebuild a strong economy, strong democracy.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian army representatives have today (September 10) reported further small gains near Robotyne in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, days after Russian-installed authorities acknowledged Russian forces had left the village.
Oleksandr Shtupun, a press officer for Ukraine’s Tauride Defence Forces, said on Ukrainian TV that Kyiv’s troops had retaken a further 0.6 square miles (1.5 square kilometers) near Rabotyne and that heavy fighting is ongoing.
He said: “The Russians are clinging to every meter of our Ukrainian land… However, the Ukrainian Defence Forces are trying to make it as difficult as possible to supply the Russian army, and in certain areas this is bearing fruit.”
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