Thursday, Russia announced plans to hold elections in occupied parts of Ukraine within three months. This is Moscow's latest attempt to signal that it is in control, even though a Ukrainian counteroffensive has forced some of its forces back.
According to military experts, the decisive battles are yet to come in the Ukrainian offensive's early phases. However, the charred remains of Russian soldiers and destroyed armored vehicles lining the roadside in villages recently retaken by Ukrainian troops attest to Kyiv's most significant gains since last year.
In an interview with NBC News in Kyiv, Zelenskiy stated, "Our valiant people, our troops on... the front line, are facing very stiff resistance." "Because if Russia loses this campaign to Ukraine, it will have effectively lost the war," I would say.
According to a portion of an interview transcript, Zelenskiy stated that the news from the front lines is "generally positive but very difficult."
Continuing his campaign for military aid, Zelenskiy urged the Swiss parliament in a video address to enable other states to re-export Swiss-made weapons to Ukraine, arguing that such a move by the neutral nation would be crucial.
Over the past two days, Reuters has reached the villages of Neskuchne and Storozheve, providing the first independent corroboration of the Ukrainian advance several kilometers south along the Mokry Yali river into territory Russia has controlled since the beginning of its invasion last year.
Several corpses of Russian soldiers were discovered in the streets of depopulated and ruined villages. According to Reuters, the Ukrainian military in Storozheve killed approximately 50 Russians and captured four there.
The Ukrainian military, which had maintained strict silence about the campaign for over a week, held its first complete media briefing since the counteroffensive began on Thursday to tout the gains.
Brigadier-General Oleksandr Hromov stated that troops had captured at least seven settlements and 100 square kilometers (38 square miles) of territory during two main offensives in the south.
"We are prepared to continue fighting with our bare hands to liberate our territory," he said.
Ukrainian military officials reported that the army on the southern front had advanced up to 7 kilometers (4.4 miles) along the Mokry Yali and up to 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) on another trajectory further west near the village of Mala Tokmachka.
They also described advances in the east around the ruined city of Bakhmut, which Moscow captured last month as the only significant prize of a massive winter and spring offensive that witnessed the bloodiest ground fighting in Europe since World War II.
This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted that Moscow's objectives in Ukraine have not changed. He asserted that Russian forces were causing ten times as many casualties to Ukrainians as they were suffering.
African leaders whose nations have been severely affected by the war's aftermath, which has disrupted grain and other food supplies, exacerbated food price inflation, and exacerbated famine crises, are expected to mediate the conflict.
Senegal's President Macky Sall and South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead a delegation of officials from Zambia, Comoros, and Egypt's prime minister to Kyiv and St. Petersburg on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
According to a proposed framework document seen by Reuters on Thursday, they could propose several "confidence-building measures" during their initial efforts.
Russia's announcement of a plan for elections in occupied territory was Moscow's most recent effort to portray a stable situation.
According to the Russian state news agency TASS, election chief Ella Pamfilova stated that both the Defense Ministry and the Federal Security Service (FSB) had determined that conducting the elections in September would be possible.
Last year, Russia declared the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces, although it does not completely control them and does not hold the major population centers in two.
Kyiv asserts that any Russian elections held on Ukrainian soil would be invalid and unlawful.
The offensive of Ukraine has yet to face its greatest challenge. Russia's defenses have had months to be prepared. Ukrainian forces have not yet reached the most formidable Russian defensive positions, which are located behind the front line.
Kyiv is believed to have prepared an attack force consisting of approximately 12 brigades containing thousands of soldiers each, with the majority employing recently arrived Western armored vehicles. A minority of them have been engaged thus far.
Russia has published images of Western tanks and armored vehicles that it claims to have destroyed or captured.
Rafael Grossi, the head of the U.N. atomic energy agency, visited the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and reported that the situation at the site was "serious" but that the level of cooling water was adequate following last week's catastrophic breach of the Kakhovka dam downstream on the Dnieper River.