Too early to tell if Ukraine counter-offensive is turning point, Germany says

·2 min read
Interview with German Defence Minister Lambrecht on Indo-Pacific

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Wednesday it is too early to tell whether Ukraine's significant territorial advances in recent days mark a turning point in the war prompted by Russia's invasion of its neighbour.

"This is hard to assess because we don't know how the Russians will react now (to Ukraine's counter-offensive)," Lambrecht told Reuters in an interview at the defence ministry in Berlin.

"But it is definitely a remarkable success that will contribute to Russia's destabilisation," she added, speaking of a weakening of the Russian military.

Russian forces suffered a stunning reversal this month after Ukrainian troops made a rapid armoured thrust with special forces in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, forcing a sometimes rushed and chaotic Russian withdrawal.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says his army has liberated around 8,000 square km (3,100 square miles) of territory so far this month, a swath of land nearly equivalent to the island of Cyprus.

Reuters was not able to immediately verify the full scope of battlefield successes claimed by Ukraine.

"This proves that the Ukrainian forces are very well positioned tactically, and that they are capable of repelling attacks (in a way) that not many had thought them capable of," Lambrecht said.

She pledged additional support for to help the Ukrainian forces fight on over the winter months, on top of the generators, winter clothing and tents she promised at an international meeting at Ramstein air base last week.

"We will continue to support Ukraine, also by supplying weapons," Lambrecht said. "We will remain at Ukraine's side for as long as it is necessary."

Ukraine has been pushing Berlin for months to supply Kyiv with more heavy weapons, and to start delivering modern Western tanks as well, a demand German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has rejected repeatedly.

In a keynote speech on Monday, Lambrecht echoed Scholz, arguing no country had delivered Western-built infantry fighting vehicles or main battle tanks to Kyiv so far and that Berlin had agreed with its partners to not take such action unilaterally.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Catherine Evans)