Zelenskyy concedes that Ukraine needs time before launching a counteroffensive

Zelenskyy concedes that Ukraine needs time before launching a counteroffensive

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy assured in an interview broadcast by the BBC on Thursday that his army still needs time to prepare a much-anticipated counter-offensive to repel Russian forces.

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This Ukrainian operation has been in preparation for months while the front lines have largely been frozen since last year and most of the fighting is taking place to the east for control of the devastated town of Bachmout.

The Ukrainian army has been training new forces and stockpiling munitions and equipment provided by Western countries, which analysts say will be key to recapturing occupied territories from the Russians.

“With (what we have) we can move forward and be successful. But we would lose a lot of people. I think that’s unacceptable. So we have to wait. We need a little more time,” said Zelenskyy, according to the BBC.

The timetable for Kyiv’s launch of land reclamation operations in the Donetsk and Lugansk (east) and Kherson and Zaporizhia (south) regions, which Moscow allegedly annexed, therefore remains an open question.

In this regard, the UK announced that it will supply Ukraine with Storm Shadow cruise missiles, becoming the first country to supply this type of long-range weapon with a range of 250 kilometers.

Fearing an escalation of fighting, Westerners have so far been reluctant to send weapons that might allow Ukraine to advance deep into Russian territory.

“The donation of these weapon systems gives Ukraine the best chance to defend itself against ongoing Russian brutality,” said British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Pretoria Reuben Brigety accused South Africa of supplying “arms and ammunition” to Russia despite its declared neutrality in the conflict with Ukraine.

western weapons

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiï Reznikov assured at the end of April that “preparations for a counter-offensive came to an end”.

“The equipment was promised, prepared and partially delivered. In the broadest sense, we’re ready,” he said. “If God wills it (if there’s the weather and the commanders’ decision), we will do it.”

However, he regretted that the powerful Abrams tanks promised by the US “did not have time to participate in this counter-offensive” and that their delivery was not expected until the end of 2023.

Ukraine, on the other hand, has received hundreds more tanks, planes, ammunition and other weapons from its western backers. Since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, the country has received more than $150 billion in aid, including $65 billion in military matters.

For Ukrainian authorities, the success of the counteroffensive is all the more important as it could decide future Western aid, while some are calling for peace talks with Russia.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Thursday “not to put pressure on Ukraine to cede territories”.

Counterattacks in Bakhmout

Commenting on the interview with Mr. Zelenskyy, the head of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigoyine, on Thursday accused the Ukrainian president of being “dishonest” in his comments to the BBC because the Ukrainian counter-offensive is “reaching its full potential”. “.

On Wednesday, a senior Ukrainian military official claimed that Kiev forces counterattacked in Bakhmut, the epicenter of fighting in the east, forcing Russian troops to retreat in some places.

“In the direction of (Bachmout), units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are penetrating on the flanks and, unfortunately, succeed in some places,” said Mr. Prigozhin, whose men are on the front lines in this battle.

“The plan of the Ukrainian army is indeed (…), all units that have been trained and received weapons, tanks and everything necessary are already fully engaged in the fighting,” he said, adding.

In open conflict with the Russian military hierarchy, Wagner’s boss bemoans the lack of ammunition for his men, which he believes the general staff is purposely stockpiling, and threatens to withdraw from Bakhmout.

The Russian army on Thursday night denied a “breakthrough” by Ukrainian troops into its defenses and claimed to have the situation “under control” after Mr Prigoyine and pro-Russian military bloggers raised alarms about the withdrawal of troops in the area.

More than 90% controlled by the Russians, Bakhmout is the scene of the longest and deadliest battle since the beginning of the war.