Ukraine must win by winter – Zelensky aide
The Ukrainian military must defeat Russia before winter, Andrey Yermak, chief of staff to President Vladimir Zelensky, said in an interview on Tuesday. Amid a shakeup in Ukraine’s government and Russian gains on the battlefield, Yermak insisted that more Western weapons could turn the tide.
“Today, our main goal is victory,” Yermak said, “to do this, we need our military to have everything they need. They have everything except sufficient equipment and sufficient weapons.”
The US alone has already allocated more than $55 billion worth of military and economic aid to Ukraine since February, and even though the Biden administration’s Lend-Lease program of arms shipments is set to come online in August, Yermak stated that time was not on his country’s side.
“The main task of Lend-Lease is that we get everything on time,” he explained. “It is very important for us not to enter the winter. After winter, when the Russians will have more time to dig in, it will certainly be more difficult.”
Asked whether Ukraine’s military could retake the Black Sea coastline before winter, as Ukrainian Defense Minister Alexey Reznikov told the UK’s Sunday Times earlier this month that it would, Yermak did not answer directly, saying instead that “our goal is definitely the de-occupation of all our territories,” without providing a timeframe.
“It’s hard work,” Yermak admitted, “when there is an enemy against you who has much more weapons and men.”
In Reznikov’s estimation, Ukraine needs around 50 M142 HIMARS rocket artillery systems from the US to hold back the advancing Russian military, and 100 of these truck-mounted launchers to conduct a counteroffensive. Reznikov announced these figures during a meeting of the Atlantic Council, a NATO-backed think tank, on Tuesday.
To date, Washington has given Ukraine eight HIMARS systems, and the White House revealed on Tuesday that a fresh package of military aid to be announced this week will include more of these weapons systems.
Ukraine has suffered a string of losses on the battlefield, with the entirety of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) coming under the control of Russian-allied forces at the beginning of this month, and Russian and Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) forces seizing operational control of Seversk – within striking distance of the major cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk – in recent days.
Meanwhile in Kiev, Zelensky’s government appears consumed by a witch hunt, with Zelensky firing Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova and the head of the country’s top security agency, Ivan Bakanov, over the weekend. According to the Ukrainian leader, “high treason and collaboration” was rampant in both services. Ukraine’s parliament on Tuesday approved the firings, and Zelensky went on to remove five more regional bosses of Bakanov’s agency, as well as its deputy head, Vladimir Gorbenko.