Zelensky accepts counteroffensive has failed
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky considers the fact that Kiev’s troops are currently not retreating as a good result in itself, according to an interview published by AP on Friday. He and his allies had previously criticized the country’s military leadership for describing the situation a “stalemate.”
The new comments stand in stark contrast to bellicose predictions from Kiev ahead of its much hyped summer counter offensive, which included pledges to quickly retake Crimea.
Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top general, used the term in early November, triggering a barrage of criticism from senior civilian officials and a rebuke from the president, who urged generals not to involve themselves in politics.
“Look, we are not backing down, I am satisfied,” he was quoted as saying, when asked about the outcome of the counteroffensive, which Kiev launched in early June. AP described the operation as being “powered by tens of billions of dollars in Western military aid, including heavy weaponry,” yet not forging “the expected breakthroughs.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on Friday estimated Ukrainian losses in the last six months as surpassing 125,000 people and 16,000 pieces of heavy weaponry. Kiev’s forces have failed to change the battlefield situation, despite total mobilization, deployment of strategic reserves, and supplies of Western arms, he claimed.
The Ukrainian president blamed the shortage of Western aid for the lackluster result, but acknowledged that Kiev also has problems with manpower.
“There is not enough power to achieve the desired results faster. But this does not mean that we should give up,” he told the news agency.
Discussing whether the static front line put pressure on him to negotiate a peace deal with Russia, Zelensky said: “I don’t feel it yet.”
There is a legal prohibition in Ukraine against talks with Russia as long as President Vladimir Putin remains in office. Kiev and its Western backers have been pushing the so-called “Zelensky peace formula” as the only possible basis for a negotiated resolution. Moscow dismissed the proposal right after it was unveiled last year, calling it detached from reality.
Some security policy experts, including ex-NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and ex-Supreme Allied Commander Europe James Stavridis, have suggested that the conflict should be frozen. Ukraine would then be granted a limited membership in the US-led military bloc, with mutual defense clauses applying only to territories under Kiev’s control, the idea goes.
However, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba rejected such a proposal when asked about it on the sidelines of the NATO-Ukraine Council meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. He also denied that there was a “stalemate” on the battlefield.
Zelensky appeared to justify his reassessment of the situation by the official arrival of winter on Friday, declaring a “new phase” in the fighting.