Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned his country that Russia was throwing all resources available into its military campaign to stop Kyiv’s troops from pressing their counteroffensive in the south and east of the country.
Zelenskyy comments on Friday came as Ukrainian officials again acknowledged that the much-anticipated operation by Ukraine to push Russian forces back was progressing at a far slower pace than some had anticipated, though new reports of battlefield advances by Ukraine have emerged.
“We must all understand very clearly – as clearly as possible – that the Russian forces on our southern and eastern lands are investing everything they can to stop our warriors,” Zelenskyy said in his daily evening address to the country.
“Every thousand metres we advance, every success of each of our combat brigades deserves gratitude,” he said.
Zelenskyy also said that he had received an “important report” on the security situation in neighbouring Belarus, which he was closely monitoring, though there were “no large-scale threats” currently.
“Our full focus is on the front line,” he said.
Ukrainian army report gains against Russian troops around Bakhmut
The Ukrainian president’s comment on Belarus came as news emerged that Russia’s Wagner mercenary group had reached an agreement to train Belarusian troops.
The Belarusian defence ministry said in a statement on Friday that an agreement has been reached with Wagner to develop a roadmap “for the near future for training and transfer of experience between units of different branches of the armed forces”.
The defence ministry also released a video showing Wagner fighters instructing Belarusian soldiers at a training ground near the town of Asipovichy, about 90km (56 miles) southeast of the capital, Minsk.
The ministry did not specify how Wagner fighters were involved in the military training in Belarus, where the mutinous mercenary force was promised sanctuary after calling off its rebellion against the Russian military leadership last month.
Belarus has emerged as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in his war on Ukraine.