Putin threatens to grab more territory in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to order troops to take more land in Ukraine to protect Russian territory, he said in remarks on Tuesday.

The assertion comes as Ukraine begins a long-awaited counter-offensive in the south and east of the country, claiming small victories disputed by the Russian government. Putin said Ukraine suffered “catastrophic” losses in its probing attacks on Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, but Ukrainian officials have so far called the offensive a success.

He also reiterated claims that the Kakhovka dam was intentionally destroyed by Ukraine. The dam burst two weeks ago, causing massive flooding in southern Ukraine, displacing many people and threatening the region’s agriculture as well as military movements.

The Ukrainian government, meanwhile, blamed the Russians for the resulting humanitarian crisis.

Putin’s threat to take more territory would create a “sanitary zone” in Ukrainian territory before the Russian border to prevent any Ukrainian attacks in Russia itself, he said.

Last month, Russian irregulars supporting Ukraine attacked border crossings and small towns in Russia, fighting on Russian soil for one of the first times in the nearly 14-month-long conflict. Drone strikes have also penetrated Russia for the first time in recent weeks, although the Ukrainian government has denied direct involvement in both attacks.

Also during the two-hour meeting with bloggers and war reporters, Putin threatened to pull out of a United Nations deal allowing Ukrainian grain shipments across the Black Sea.

These shipments kept Ukraine’s economy afloat and alleviated some global food shortages caused by wartime disruptions to food supply chains. Prior to the conflict, Ukraine was the world’s fifth-largest wheat exporter, according to UN data.

The United States on Tuesday announced a new $325 million aid package for Ukraine, consisting of additional rocket systems and air defenses.

On Tuesday morning, Russia launched a series of strikes on kyiv and central Ukraine, killing 11 people in the small town of Kryvyi Rih, the birthplace of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Russian killers continue their war against residential buildings, ordinary towns and people,” Zelensky said on Telegram.

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