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Zelensky says counteroffensive ‘taking place’ as Trudeau visits Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday that counteroffensive action was underway as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Kyiv and accused Russia over flooding from the breached Kakhovka dam.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shake hands during a press conference following their talks in Kyiv on June 10, 2023. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday that counteroffensive action was underway as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Kyiv and accused Russia over flooding from the breached Kakhovka dam.

“Counteroffensive and defensive actions are taking place in Ukraine: at which stage I will not talk in detail,” Zelensky said at a joint press conference in Kyiv with Trudeau.

Zelensky commented after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Kyiv’s long-expected counteroffensive was already failing.

Russia has reported thwarting Ukrainian attacks in the east and south that some observers have interpreted as the start of a large-scale counteroffensive.

“It’s interesting what Putin said about our counteroffensive. It is important that Russia always feels this: that they do not have long left, in my opinion,” Zelensky said.

He added that he was in daily touch with military commanders including armed forces chief Valery Zaluzhny and “everyone is positive now — tell that to Putin!”

Trudeau, 51, and Zelensky, 45, hugged each other and used each other’s first names as the Canadian leader made his second unannounced visit to Kyiv since full-scale war broke out in February last year.

Canada, which hosts a large Ukrainian diaspora, has been one of Kyiv’s key allies since the Russian invasion.

It has provided Ukraine with significant military aid, trained more than 36,000 soldiers and adopted sanctions against Moscow.

‘Direct consequence’¬†

Trudeau denounced Russia’s role in the destruction of the Russian-controlled Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine on Tuesday.

The flooding from the breached dam has forced thousands to flee their homes and sparked fears of humanitarian and environmental disasters.

Ukraine accuses Russia of blowing up the dam, while Moscow says Kyiv fired on it.

Pledging 10 million Canadian dollars (US $7.5 million) in new funding for flood relief, Trudeau said the dam’s destruction was the “direct consequence” of Russia’s invasion.

“There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that the destruction of the dam was a direct consequence of Russia’s decision to invade a peaceful neighbour,” Trudeau said.

He added he was certain that Moscow would be held accountable for its actions in Ukraine.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine has devastated infrastructure, has destroyed families and taken lives and is causing economic, food, energy shortages around the world. Russia is responsible and will be held to account.”

Pilot training 
The Canadian leader said he would provide 500 million Canadian dollars in new funding for military assistance to Ukraine.

He also pledged Canada would be part of the multinational efforts to train Ukraine’s fighter pilots.

Ottawa will also provide 10,000 ammunition rounds and 288 AIM-7 missiles to be repurposed in the United States and used in air defence systems.

Earlier in the day Trudeau placed flowers by a wall of remembrance displaying the faces of soldiers killed in combat while a military orchestra played.

He also visited an open-air exhibition featuring destroyed Russian military vehicles.

Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Oleksandr Polishchuk handed Trudeau a box that he said held shrapnel from a rocket that fell on the Black Sea port city of Odesa.

He said the gift was intended to remind Trudeau of Ukraine’s suffering from Russian strikes.

Three people were killed early Saturday in a fire sparked by debris from shot-down Russian drones in the Odesa region.

A group of Ukrainian soldiers who had received training in Canada spoke with Trudeau.

One of them, Colonel Petro Ostapchuk, told reporters the troops received specialised training for snipers, engineers and young commanders.

“It’s a great privilege to meet the prime minister,” he said.