Ukraine Readies for Counteroffensive, Says Kyiv Official

Drone attacks targeted oil pipeline installations inside Russia Saturday, including a station serving the vast Druzhba oil pipeline that sends Western Siberian crude to Europe, according to Russian media. Kyiv has not commented on the attacks and Reuters could not verify the reports.
Russia’s Wagner mercenaries are “regrouping to another three locations” after partially withdrawing from Bakhmut, according to Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov in an interview released Saturday.

Ukraine is prepared to launch its long-expected counteroffensive against Russian forces, according to Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy  Danilov. 

In an interview with the BBC Saturday, Danilov said the counteroffensive is coming very soon, though he refused to give a date for the beginning of the launch. “It would be weird if I were to name dates of the start of that,” he said. “… We have a very responsible task before our country.”

Danilov confirmed in the interview that the Wagner Group is withdrawing its forces from the war-ravaged Ukrainian city of Bakhmut but he acknowledged that Russia’s Wagner mercenaries are “regrouping to another three locations” after what he called their partial withdrawal from Bakhmut.  

Danilov acknowledged that Ukrainian forces control only a “small part of the city” but underscored that “Bakhmut has played a big role in this war,” despite the heavy toll on Ukrainian defenders.

The British Defense Ministry also confirmed in its daily intelligence update on Ukraine posted on Twitter that “Wagner Group forces have likely started to withdraw from some of their positions around the Donetsk city of Bakhmut.”

Wagner and the Russian Defense Ministry claimed victory over Bakhmut on May 20, about 10 months after the heavy battle for the city started.

US senator talks F-16s

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham expressed confidence that the Ukrainian counteroffensive coming in the next days or weeks will wield results during a press conference Friday in Kyiv. “I’m here to tell you that the last chapter of the battle of Bakhmut is yet to be written. I’m here to tell you that the Russian military is about to have holy hell unleashed upon them,” he said.

Graham also stated that Republicans and Democrats are united in their goal to help Ukraine, and he noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin must not be allowed to win. “History tells us aggression unchecked leads to more aggression.” The senator also hailed the Ukrainian people for their strength and courage. “I am in awe of you. I admire you. You represent the best in humanity. You will win,” he said.

Graham said there are no magic weapons to winning a war, but he acknowledged that “the F-16s will matter.” He called on the Biden administration “to do more” and expressed his conviction that “there will be bipartisan support to providing more weapons that can turn the tide of battle in the upcoming counteroffensive.”

Responding to VOA about whether the U.S. will support Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, Graham said that Ukraine will eventually become part of the alliance and a member of the EU but for now, the priority, he said, is for Ukraine to “evict the invader,” from Ukrainian territories. “I told President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy nobody is signed up for an invasion of Russia. The weapons we’re providing are to evict Russia from Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s drone attacks

Drone attacks struck oil pipeline installations deep inside Russia on Saturday, including a station serving the Druzhba pipeline, one of the world’s largest oil pipelines that sends Western Siberian crude to Europe. Russian media reported the attacks were launched by Ukraine and said that shelling from Ukraine killed at least two people and injured others.  

Ukrainian drone attacks inside Russia have been growing in intensity in recent weeks, and The New York Times reported that U.S. intelligence believes Ukraine was behind a drone attack on the Kremlin earlier this month.

Ukrainian officials have not publicly acknowledged launching attacks against targets inside Russia. The Ukrainian defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

In Russia’s Tver region, which lies just northwest of Moscow, two drones attacked a station that serves the Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline, one of the world’s largest oil pipelines, the Russian Kommersant newspaper said.

The Tver local council said a drone had crashed near the village of Erokhino, about 500 kilometers from the border with Ukraine.  


The messaging app Telegram channel Baza, which has sources among Russia’s security services, said the drones attacked a station serving the Druzhba pipeline.


In Russia’s Belgorod region, Ukrainian shelling killed at least one person and injured three, including a 15-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the region said.


Ukrainian shelling killed a construction worker in Russia’s Kursk region near the border with Ukraine, the local governor said.

At its daily briefing about the Ukraine war, Russia’s defense ministry said it had destroyed 12 Ukrainian drones in the past 24 hours and intercepted two long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles that were supplied to Ukraine by Britain.

Reuters could not immediately verify battlefield accounts from either side.

VOAs Eastern Europe Bureau Chief Myroslava Gongadze contributed to this report.

Some information for this story was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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