Security Council official Dmitry Medvedev’s comments come amid reports of an imminent counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces in the besieged city of Bakhmut.
Russian forces may have to advance as far as Kyiv or Lviv in Ukraine, Russia’s former president Dmitry Medvedev says, amid reports Moscow was losing momentum in the war-torn city of Bakhmut.
Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, has issued a barrage of strongly worded statements in the past, blasting the United States and its NATO allies for what he described as their efforts to break up and destroy Russia.
“Nothing can be ruled out here. If you need to get to Kyiv, then you need to go to Kyiv, if to Lviv, then you need to go to Lviv in order to destroy this infection,” Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Medvedev as saying on Friday.
Medvedev denounced the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin on charges of alleged involvement in the abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine as legally null and void.
He noted the move added to a “colossal negative potential” in the already bitterly strained ties between Russia and the West, and an arrest would equal a declaration of war against Moscow.
The soft-spoken and mild-mannered Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012 when term limits forced Putin to shift into the prime minister’s post, was widely seen by Western officials as more liberal than his mentor.
Since Putin sent troops into Ukraine more than a year ago, Medvedev has emerged as one of the most hawkish Russian officials, regularly issuing blustery remarks that include four-letter words and sound much tougher than those issued by the old-time Kremlin hardliners.
Fighting in Bakhmut
The Ukrainian military said early on Friday that 1,020 Russian troops had been killed over the previous 24 hours as they launched unsuccessful attacks on the towns of Lyman, Avdiivka, Marinka and Shakhtarske.
But their main focus was still the mining town of Bakhmut.
“The enemy has not stopped its assault of Bakhmut,” Ukraine’s General Staff said in a report.
Ukraine’s top ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrskyi said his forces would soon begin a counteroffensive after withstanding Russia’s winter campaign.
Russia’s Wagner mercenaries, who have been at the front of Moscow’s assault on eastern and southern Ukraine, “are losing considerable strength and are running out of steam”, he said.
“Very soon, we will take advantage of this opportunity, as we did in the past near Kyiv, Kharkiv, Balakliya and Kupiansk,” said Syrskyi, listing Ukrainian counteroffensives last year that recaptured swaths of land.
There was no immediate response from Moscow to suggestions its forces in Bakhmut were losing momentum, but Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin issued statements in recent days warning of a Ukrainian counterassault.
Russian forces have for months been trying to capture Bakhmut as they seek to extend their control over eastern Ukraine, in Europe’s deadliest infantry battle since World War II.
Ukrainian forces have held them off, as they did again in Avdiivka, Marinka and Shakhtarske, among the 80 Russian attacks that Ukrainian defenders repelled over the past day, the military said.