A senior White House official said Ukraine’s plans for a major counteroffensive around the southern city of Kherson had already forced Russia to “extremely extract resources” from the country’s east.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council, declined to comment on operational details related to Ukraine’s bid to retake southern territory occupied by Russia in recent months.
But Kirby said Ukraine’s decision had already caused Russia to react and had an impact on the conflict.
“Regardless of the size, scale and scope of this counteroffensive that they talked about today, they have already had an impact on Russia’s military capabilities,” Kirby said.
“The Russians had to withdraw resources from the east simply because of reports that the Ukrainians might be more offensive in the south – they had to exhaust some units from certain areas in the east and Donbass.”
Kirby also said it was not the first time Ukrainian forces had attacked Russian forces since the conflict began in February, including in areas around Kyiv and Kharkiv.
“The idea of going on the attack is not new to the Ukrainians, and they are fighting against the Russians inside their country. In fact, with some of the help they received from American weapons as well as others, like the Himars, they were able to hit behind the Russian lines and put the Russians more in defence,” he said.
Kirby also called for a “controlled shutdown” of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, calling it “the safest and least risky option in the short term”.
He said “Russia has essentially militarized the power plant by stationing forces there, including weapons” and said Moscow “can hold Ukraine hostage to its own power supply capability” by occupying the center.