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6 Jul, 2023 07:59

Zelensky shifts blame for counteroffensive failures to West

Delays in military assistance allowed Russia to create stronger defenses, the Ukrainian president has said
Zelensky shifts blame for counteroffensive failures to West

Kiev had hoped to launch its military pushback against Russia much sooner, but was hampered by a lack of Western-supplied weapons, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said in an interview released on Wednesday.

Speaking to CNN, Zelensky admitted that Ukraine's counteroffensive, which has been running for about a month, has been “slowed down” by strong Russian defenses.

Zelensky noted that he had told European leaders that Ukraine would like to start its campaign “much earlier,” but needed “all the weapons and materiel for that.” In some areas, he said, Kiev’s troops cannot “even think of starting” attacks because they do not have “the relevant weapons.”

The Ukrainian leader explained that Kiev knew the delays would result in slower progress. “Everyone understood that if the counteroffensive unfolds later, then a bigger part of our territory will be mined. We give our enemy the time and possibility to place more mines and prepare their defensive lines,” he added.

Zelensky went on to reiterate calls for deliveries of US-made F-16 fighter jets. While Kiev’s Western backers have already started to train Ukrainian pilots to fly these aircraft, earlier this week Admiral Rob Bauer, chairman of the NATO military committee, warned that the issue of shipments “will not be solved in the short term for this counteroffensive.”

The Ukrainian leader noted that F-16 deliveries are “not even about the Ukrainian advantage in the sky over the Russians” but rather “only about being equal,” adding that the jets will provide cover for Ukrainian troops, enabling them to more easily move across the battlefield.

Kiev started its long-anticipated counteroffensive in early June, attempting to breach Russian defenses along several sections of the front. However, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, all Ukrainian attacks have failed, with heavy losses.

Numerous Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky, have acknowledged difficulties on the battlefield, with the Ukrainian deputy defense minister Anna Malyar urging the public last month not to measure Ukraine’s successes by recaptured territory.

On Tuesday, Aleksey Danilov, Ukraine’s national security chief, claimed that Kiev’s priority is “the maximum destruction” of the Russian military rather than territorial advances.

However, a Financial Times report last month indicated that Western officials have been unimpressed by Ukraine’s battlefield performance, with the paper’s sources claiming that long-term Western support for Kiev would be contingent on the eventual outcome of the offensive.