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7 Jul, 2023 15:28

Zelensky offers excuses for Ukraine’s counteroffensive difficulties

Without long-range weapons, it is not only difficult for Kiev to attack, but even to defend, the Ukrainian leader has claimed
Zelensky offers excuses for Ukraine’s counteroffensive difficulties

The Russian advantage in long-range weapons seriously complicates Kiev’s counteroffensive, Vladimir Zelensky said on Friday. The Ukrainian president has previously attributed lack of progress in the much-hyped operation to delays in arms deliveries by the West.

“Without long-range weapons, it’s difficult not only to carry out an offensive mission, it is difficult to conduct a defensive operation, to be honest. Very difficult,” Zelensky explained during a press-conference in Prague.

The Ukrainian leader said that Kiev was in discussions with Washington about the supply of such weapons. “It depends only on them [the US] today,” he said.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, with whom Zelensky held talks earlier on the day, promised that Prague would send combat helicopters to Ukraine and train its pilots to fly US-made F-16 fighter jets.

Washington previously declined to provide long-range arms to Kiev over concerns that they might be used by Ukrainian forces for attacks deep into Russian territory, risking a major escalation in the conflict.

Last week, Republican senator James E. Risch told Voice of America that a group of US lawmakers were continuing to pressure the Biden administration to supply Zelensky’s government with the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). The possibility of Ukraine getting the missiles, which boast a range of up to 321 kilometers (200 miles) was “quite high,” Risch said.

Ukrainian officials had been mulling a major counterattack for months, claiming that it would end in the recapture of all territories lost to Russia, including Crimea. The operation finally started in early June, but according to Moscow, it has so far failed to achieve any significant gains, despite heavy losses in manpower and hardware on the Ukrainian side. Kiev has so far claimed the seizure of several villages, but they appear to be located some distance away from main Russian defense lines.

In an interview with the CNN on Wednesday, Zelensky claimed that the campaign had “slowed down” because the West had failed to provide weapons to Kiev on time. Ukraine wanted to start its advance “much earlier,” but could not do it due to lack of equipment, he said. “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,” the president explained.

Moscow has repeatedly warned that deliveries of more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine by the US and its allies could cross its ‘red lines,’ leading to a major escalation of hostilities. Russia argues that the supply of arms, intelligence sharing, and training of Kiev’s troops already means that Western nations are de facto parties to the conflict.