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Long-anticipated Ukraine counteroffensive soon: Zelenskyy

Rome: The first important steps of a highly-anticipated military counteroffensive against Russian forces would be taken soon, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he met with European partners providing his country with weapons, CNN reported.
Talking with reporters in Rome after meetings with his Italian counterpart and Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian forces were "preparing very seriously." "There will definitely be very serious steps. I cannot tell you (when) but you will definitely see it and Russia will definitely feel it," he said, adding, "We believe in victory and believe that the first important steps will be taken soon."
Last week, senior US and Western military officials told CNN that Ukrainian forces had started "shaping" operations ahead of the counteroffensive.
In order to prepare the battlefield for advancing forces, shaping involves attacking targets such as weapons depots, command posts, and armour and artillery systems. It's a standard tactic performed before significant joint operations, CNN reported.
After a "long and fruitful" discussion with Zelenskyy on Saturday, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni promised constant support for Ukraine and added that Rome would back any future application by Kyiv to join NATO.
"We are ready to support a further intensification of Ukraine's partnership with NATO, we will discuss it in Vilnius at the July summit, it will probably be the central theme," Meloni added.
Earlier, Zelenskyy also met Pope Francis, who has been open in his support for putting an end to the violence in Ukraine.
Zelenskyy and Francis discussed the humanitarian and political crisis in Ukraine during their meeting at the Vatican on Saturday, and the Pope offered his "constant prayer," according to a statement from the Vatican press office, reported CNN.
According to the statement, "Both agreed on the need to continue humanitarian efforts to support the population."
Zelenskyy said last week that his nation still requires "a bit more time" before launching the counteroffensive in order to let some additional delivery of the promised Western military supplies, as per CNN.
Among those Western supporters is Germany, where Zelenskyy landed on Sunday, his first trip there since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine started in February, CNN reported.
"Already in Berlin. Weapons. Powerful package. Air defence. Reconstruction. EU. NATO. Security," Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.
On Saturday, the German Defence Ministry announced that it would give Ukraine an additional USD 3 billion in military aid, including 30 tanks.
This came after a significant policy reversal by Berlin earlier this year, when it said it would give Kyiv Leopard 2 assault tanks. Due to Berlin's long-standing policy of not delivering lethal weapons to conflict areas, Germany originally resisted requests to arm Ukraine, CNN reported. (ANI)

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