Putin defiant despite Ukraine setbacks

MOSCOW (AFP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was “doing everything right” in its nearly eight-month invasion of Ukraine despite a string of embarrassing defeats against Kyiv’s forces, that will receive $725 million in new US military assistance.

Putin’s comments Friday came hours after Kremlin-installed officials in the southern Kherson region urged residents to leave as Kyiv said its soldiers were advancing on the oblast’s main city.

Moscow also hinted at the extent of the damage dealt to the Crimea bridge — the sole land connection between its mainland and the annexed Ukrainian peninsula — following a blast last Saturday, saying it could take many months to complete repairs.

“What is happening today is not pleasant. But all the same, (if Russia hadn’t attacked in February) we would have been in the same situation, only the conditions would have been worse for us,” Putin told reporters.

“So we’re doing everything right,” he insisted. He did, however, acknowledge that Russia’s ex-Soviet allies were “worried.”

Putin said there was no need for further massive strikes against Ukraine at present and claimed the Kremlin did not intend to destroy its pro-Western neighbor.

In southern Ukraine, Kyiv’s forces have been pushing closer and closer to Kherson, the main city in the region of the same name just north of Crimea.

Kyiv, which announced its counter-offensive in the south in August, said it has already recaptured more than 400 square kilometers in the Kherson region in under a week.

But in the east, pro-Russian forces said they were closing in on the industrial city of Bakhmut after reporting the capture of two villages on the city’s outskirts this week.

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