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UPDATE 2-After Ukraine’s gains, Kremlin says ‘military operation’ will succeed

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LONDON, Sept 12 (Reuters) – The Kremlin insisted on Monday that Russia would achieve its military goals in Ukraine, in its first public response to dramatic Ukrainian gains on the battlefield.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to answer directly, when asked by a reporter if President Vladimir Putin had confidence in his military leadership, replying that the “special operation” would continue until it had achieved its objectives.

“The military operation continues,” Peskov said. “And it will continue until the goals that were originally set are achieved.”

“Of course, any actions of the military that they perform as part of the special operation are reported to the Supreme Commander,” Peskov said, referring to Putin.

“The president is in round-the-clock communication with the Minister of Defense and with all military commanders. It cannot be otherwise during the special military operation.”

It was the first reaction from the Kremlin to a lightning Ukrainian counteroffensive last week in which Kyiv says it recaptured more than 3,000 sq km (1,160 sq miles) of territory in the space of just a few days.

Asked if Putin would order a general mobilization in response to Ukraine’s counter-offensive, Peskov referred the question to the defense ministry.

So far Putin has not resorted to mobilizing Russia’s reserves, who number around 2 million men with military service within the past five years.

Peskov also said Russia saw no prospect of peace talks with Ukraine, or grounds for such talks.

He said there were no discussions taking place about the possible demilitarization of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – one of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) key recommendations from its visit to the plant this month.

The swift Ukrainian gains in Kharkiv region have left Moscow facing its most serious defeat since being driven back from the outskirts of the capital Kyiv in April. The advance has deprived Russia of vital logistics hubs it had used to supply its forces in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow’s almost total silence on the defeat – or any explanation for what had taken place in northeastern Ukraine – has provoked significant anger among some pro-war commentators and Russian nationalists on social media.

As Russian forces abandoned town after town on Saturday, Putin was opening Europe’s largest ferris wheel in a Moscow park, while fireworks lit up the sky over Red Square to celebrate the city’s founding in 1147. (Reporting by Reuters; writing by Mark Trevelyan, editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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