Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Russia may be planning to ignite a war in the Balkans to distract from its ongoing fight with Ukraine.
“Pay attention to the Balkans. Believe me, we are receiving information: Russia has a long plan,” Zelensky told reporters Thursday, according to news agency Interfax-Ukraine.
“If the countries of the world do nothing now, there will be such an explosion,” he added, explaining additional conflicts would undermine the amount of aid allies could provide his own country.
Zelensky did not offer evidence for his ominous prediction, which came almost two months after an incident along the border between longtime Balkans foes Kosovo and Serbia which left four people dead.
After the deadly shooting, Serbia briefly began massing troops along its border with Kosovo although there was no further escalation between the two nations.
The Ukrainian leader also pointed to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas that has engrossed United States and other western allies, suggesting, again without offering proof, “Russia is behind this, we are sure, with their allies Iran.”
Zelesnky’s warning came days before Russia bombarded Ukraine with a major drone attack overnight, with Moscow launching 38 Iranian-manufactured Shahad drones from 8 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Saturday, according to Ukrainian military officials.
While Kyiv managed to shoot down 29 of the drones, Ukraine’s energy ministry said the assault damaged electrical grids in the Odessa region in the south and Zaporizhzhia region in the southeast, resulting in power outages in more than 416 towns and villages.
The drone strike also hit an oil refinery, and damaged an administrative building and injured a civilian, according to Ukrainian officials.
The raid came after Ukrainian Marines reported Friday a series of “successes,” including forcing out Russian troops from parts of the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in the occupied Kherson region and establishing their own positions in the area.
“The defense forces of Ukraine conducted a series of successful operations on the left bank of the Dnipro River, along the Kherson front,” General Staff spokesperson Andriy Kovalyov said on a YouTube military channel.
Russia admitted this week for the first time that Ukrainian troops had broken through the eastern bank, but Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-backed governor of the Kherson region, warned Kyiv’s soldiers faced “Hell fire” and would be annihilated.
On Saturday, Russia claimed to have bombed Ukrainian forces near the river, killing as many as 75 soldiers and destroying four vehicles, The Guardian reported.
The area is one of three that has seen heavy ground fighting in the ongoing war, but neither Russia nor Ukraine has made significant progress, the British Ministry of Defense reported.
Ukrainian officials have blamed its sluggish counteroffensive on Russian minefields and defensive lines, along with delays in weapon supplies from western allies.
In another one of the heavy-conflict areas, the war-ravaged town of Avdiivka in southeastern Ukraine, Russia has suffered “heavy casualties” British military officials noted, with some estimating a loss of at least 4,000 troops already.
With Post wires