Ukraine Situation Report: Kyiv “More Than Ready” For Offensive, Defense Minister Says

Ukraine’s military is “more than ready” to launch its much-discussed offensive, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told reporters Friday morning.

“If in a global sense, in a high-percentage mode, we are ready, then the question is for the General Staff, for the command,” Reznikov said during a press conference in Kyiv, which the video below shows in full. ”As soon as there is God’s will, the weather, and the decision of the commanders – we will do it.”

Billions of dollars in military assistance from the U.S. and allies have made a huge difference, according to Reznikov.

Ukraine has “received very modern systems, especially in the part of the armored fist,” Rezikov said. “I assure you that in addition to the tank coalition, which primarily includes Leopard 2 and Challenger, a little later Leopard 1 will arrive.”

Over 100 Ukrainian service personnel have started training on Leopard 1 tanks this week, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told the Spanish publication La Vanguardia today.

Now, “the preparations are coming to an end,” said Reznikov, adding that now that Ukraine has received weapons and equipment “our service members should master them.”

However, “we are still waiting for Abrams [tanks]” from the United States, he added. “Abrams will not participate in this counteroffensive, I think. But our crews have already left for training.”

The Pentagon says it is working to expedite the delivery of the Abrams and that 31 training tanks are heading to Germany where Ukrainian troops will learn how to operate and maintain them. However, when asked by The War Zone Friday to confirm Reznikov’s assertion that his troops have already left for training, the Pentagon said, “We don’t have anything to provide regarding that.”

Abrams tanks to Ukraine
Ukraine will kick off its looming offensive without U.S.-promised Abrams tanks, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told reporters Friday. (Petras photo) (Photo by PETRAS MALUKAS/AFP via Getty Images)

The issue of when the 31 combat-ready Abrams tanks will be delivered to Ukraine was a bipartisan source of frustration during Thursday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Senators from both parties questioned Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of U.S. European Command, about why it was taking the U.S. so long to provide the tanks.

When pressed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Cavoli said it was unclear exactly when those tanks will arrive in Ukraine.

Abrams aside, so far, NATO and allied nations have provided Ukraine with 514 tanks in the past few months, Cavoli testified.

And beyond tanks, Reznikov noted that the U.S. and allies have donated a large number of armored vehicles.

“In addition, we have a large number of armored vehicles of various types, including Bradleys, Marders, Strykers, and C90s, and training courses are being completed there,” Reznikov said.

Reznikov declined to provide specifics on exactly when the offensive will kick off because Russia monitors Ukrainian media.

“But let’s say that in a general sense, we are more than ready,” he said.

Before we head into today’s latest updates from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

More than 20 civilians, including at least four children, were killed Friday in the first mass Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities in more than a month, officials in Kyiv said.

“During the day, the enemy launched 23 [Kh]-101 and [Kh]-555 cruise missiles. Our defenders destroyed 21 cruise missiles, as well as two operational-tactical UAVs,” the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said on its Telegram channel. “The cities of Uman in Cherkasy Oblast, Dnipro, as well as Ukrainka in Kyiv Oblast were affected by the rocket terror of the Russians. According to preliminary information, more than 20 civilians died, including three children. More than 10 apartment buildings and other civil infrastructure were damaged.”

The reported death toll has since increased, with at least one more child dying, Ukraine’s State Emergency Services said on its Telegram channel, and that figure could grow further.

In a message on its Russian-language Telegram channel, the Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) said that the attack was “right on target,” adding a “#HeroesZ” hashtag under a picture of a missile being launched.

“Russian Aerospace Forces launched a high-precision long-range air-based missile strike against temporary deployment points of [Armed Forces of Ukraine] reserves,” the MoD said on the English-language Telegram channel. “The goal of the attack has been reached. All the assigned targets have been neutralized. The movement of the enemy reserves into the combat areas has been prevented.”

In the wake of these deadly attacks, Ukrainian officials like Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba renewed their repeated call for Western fighters like the U.S.-made F-16.

“The civilian population of Ukraine suffers daily from Russian aggression,” the AFU StratCom Telegram channel wrote Friday. “The reliable protection of the airspace of our state is the F-16 fighters, which we seek to obtain from our reliable Western partners.”

The Ukrainians argue that the F-16 aircraft “is equipped with modern high-precision and long-range weapons, capable of shooting down aerial targets at long distances, such as the Russian Su-35 aircraft that strike with guided bombs. The F-16 can also perform the functions of various types of aircraft, and the main thing is to always be on guard in the Ukrainian sky.”

You can read more about how long it would really take to train Ukrainian pilots to fly the F-16 in our deep dive here.

As part of this public push, Ukraine has launched a social media campaign, dubbed #SkyNeedsF16, to pressure the U.S. and allies to allow the transfer of those aircraft.

Speaking of jets, the Czech Republic and Ukraine are discussing the joint production of F/A-259 Striker light attack jets made by the Czech Aero Vodochody company, Czech President Petr Pavel said during a press conference Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to the Ukrainian Military Center online news portal.

The F/A-259 is an improved derivative of the Aero Vodochody L-159 light jet aircraft. Like the L-159, the F/A-259 can be configured to serve in the light combat role, with seven hard points for air-to-air and air-ground weapons, as well as other stores.

In addition to discussing the jets, Pavel also discussed the joint production of ammunition and small arms, as well as the repair of Soviet-era Т-64 and Т-72 tanks.

On the battlefield, despite having less artillery than the Russians in and around Bakhmut, Ukraine has achieved “parity thanks to the accuracy of work,” a Ukrainian military spokesman said, according to the RBC media outlet’s Telegram channel.

“The enemy still has a mathematical advantage in artillery, but our soldiers continue to work as accurately as possible,” Serhiy Cherevaty, Eastern Group of Forces spokesman said.

“We are, roughly speaking, on an artillery diet… Our gunners and rocket launchers are used to this, so they are as accurate as possible, as much as possible comparing targets with the data of drones and trying to hit them. And in fact, they achieve parity by hitting targets qualitatively.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian Special Operations Forces (SSO) are still operating in Bakhmut, where nearly a year of fighting has cost the lives of many troops on both sides.

Trench warfare has been a deadly affair for both sides. In this video below, watch a group of fighters from Ukraine’s 2nd battalion K-2 54 OMBr attack Russian trenches, where troops are hiding in a dugout. Fierce fighting is seen ensuing.

Yesterday, we told you about how Russia was placing sandbag fighting positions atop reactors at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest.

Today, The New York Times reported that “the United States is wiring Ukraine with sensors that can detect‌‌ bursts of radiation from a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb and can confirm the identity of the attacker.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has frequently rattled the radioactive saber, threatening to use tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

The object of providing Ukraine with radiation sensors is partly “to make sure that if Russia detonates a radioactive weapon on Ukrainian soil, its atomic signature and Moscow’s culpability could be verified,” The Times reported.

“The Nuclear Emergency Support Team, or NEST, a shadowy unit of atomic experts run by the security agency, is working with Ukraine to deploy the radiation sensors, train personnel, monitor data and warn of deadly radiation,” according to the newspaper.

Russia’s Belgorod Oblast was once again attacked by Ukraine, this time by a wave of drones, according to the Russian SHOT media outlet.

There was a “massive drone attack on an electrical substation in the village of Nezhegol, Shebekinsky district, Belgorod region,” SHOT reported on its Telegram channel, citing “our source reports.”

“According to preliminary data, up to five UAVs participated” in the attack. “Two shells were dropped, two drones were hit by an air defense system. There were no casualties, minor damage.”

This would be the second reported wave of Ukrainian drones to attack the region this week.

In another apparent Ukrainian partisan attack on Russian-installed local officials, a police chief in the occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol has been killed in a bombing, the BBC reported.

Oleksandr Mishchenko died when an improvised device exploded at the entrance to the block where he lived, according to the BBC.

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) says there is a new drone being designed by domestic manufacturers based on the needs of security and defense forces.

Dubbed the “Shark Mini” because it is a smaller version of the existing Ukrainian Shark UAV, the GUR claims the new 11-pound drone can fly for up to two hours up to a little more than half a mile in altitude, travel a distance of 22 miles and reach a top speed of about 75 miles per hour. 

“The new Ukrainian UAV has an autonomous landing mode and can be equipped with an optical-electronic system with 10-fold optical magnification,” according to the GUR. “Shark Mini was created taking into account the wishes of aerial scouts from the units of the Security and Defense Forces of Ukraine.”

According to the developers, the Shark Mini, which is currently undergoing factory testing, “will strengthen the ability to collect and transmit intelligence in the interests of Ukrainian gunners, special forces fighters, and infantry soldiers.”

Ukraine is also developing a small remotely operated vehicle that can deliver two TM-62 anti-tank mines on a way-way journey to attack Russian troops.

Ukrainian kamikaze drones attacked four Russian tanks – a T-80BV, a T-72B, and two T-72As – in Donetsk Oblast, according to the Ukrainian Horevica Telegram channel.

Finally, if you ever wondered why troops need armored vehicles, check out this video. Wait for it…

That’s it for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more news about Ukraine to report.

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.