Counteroffensive slowly gaining, says Zelenskyy; US says ‘subtle shift’ in India’s stance on Ukraine-Russia conflict

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated progress in Ukraine's counteroffensive against Russian forces was "slower than desired", but Kyiv would not be pressured into speeding it up. In related news, the United States said it had noted a subtle shift in India’s position on the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

PM Modi (right met with Ukraine President Zelenskyy in Tokyo last month. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@RRRameshRRR

"Some people believe this is a Hollywood movie and expect results now. It's not," Britain's BBC quoted Zelenskyy in an interview. "What's at stake is people's lives."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow had observed a "lull" in Ukraine's counteroffensive, which began early this month. Although Ukraine still had some offensive potential, Kyiv understood it had "no chance", Putin said in televised remarks.

Zelenskyy made a point in a separate video address of highlighting Ukraine's successes. He said troops were advancing on the southern front and holding defence lines in the east, long the focus of Russia's nearly 16-month-old campaign.

He specifically mentioned the Kupiansk area in the northeast, where military officials say Russian troops have been applying increasing pressure.

"In the Kupiansk sector, whatever the Russian terrorists might be planning, we are destroying the enemy. In the south, we are moving forward … In the east, we are holding our defences," Zelenskyy said.

Ukraine says it has reclaimed eight villages in its long-awaited counteroffensive, its first substantial gains on the battlefield for seven months.

But Ukrainian forces have yet to push to the main defensive lines that Russia has had months to prepare. Kyiv is believed to have set aside 12 brigades of thousands of troops each, most of which have yet to join the fight.

The United States, one of Ukraine's most important allies, was reported to be campaigning for greater international support for Kyiv among countries that have so far not condemned Russia's invasion.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan is set to travel to Denmark this weekend to meet with officials from India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and possibly China in a bid to broaden support for Ukraine.

The Biden Administration also said that the US has experienced a subtle shift in India's position on Ukraine and Russia on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's high-level talks with President Joe Biden at the White House.

India, the official said, has a long history of relations with Russia. They have interests with Russia that go back many, many decades.
India has a long history of relations with Russia. They have interests with Russia that go back many, many decades. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

"It is a positive thing that Prime Minister Modi has said and repeated that this must be settled through dialogue and diplomacy. What I think you'll also see is that while the US and India differ about our exact policies on Russia and Ukraine, we share a belief that this must be dealt, this must be settled through diplomacy and this must end in a lasting peace according to the UN charter and its founding principles which are territorial integrity and sovereignty," a senior State Department official said on condition of anonymity.

Since the Ukraine conflict began in February last year, Modi has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a number of times during which he insisted that the conflict should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.

In September, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said at the UN that the war must be ended through diplomacy and according to the UN Charter and its founding principles. This is a way of saying what the US has always said from the beginning based on territorial integrity and sovereignty, said the official.

And then in October of last year, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the threat to use nuclear weapons is inconsistent with the basic tenets of humanity. "These are pretty strong statements," the official said.

"While in the West, I'm not sure we read it exactly the same way in India, that was seen as a very clear shift. You have seen Prime Minister Modi speaking to President Zelenskyy at the G-7 summit in Hiroshima and recommitting that this conflict must be settled through diplomacy and dialogue," said the official, who spoke with reporters on conditions of anonymity.

India, the official said, has a long history of relations with Russia. They have interests with Russia that go back many, many decades.

Responding to a question, the official said India will make its own decisions about whether it purchases oil from Russia.

"As you know, there are no sanctions on the purchase of Russian oil. There are restrictions by G-7 countries about buying oil at a certain price, the Russia oil price cap. And so we hope that India will continue to use the G-7 oil price cap to leverage lower costs for the Russian oil that it purchases. That's in the interest of all of us that it buys Russian crude at rock bottom prices," said the official.

(with PTI inputs)