Ukraine is not ready to launch its long-anticipated counteroffensive against Russian forces, one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s closest aides said on Saturday, contradicting statements from the Ukrainian leader that were released on the same day.
“If you want to start a successful counteroffensive you need everything at your disposal,” the deputy head of Zelensky’s office, Dr Ihor Zhovkva, told The Sunday Times, adding that Ukraine needs tanks, armored vehicles and artillery. “So probably we don’t have enough.”
Russian forces and Western analysts have long waited for the start of Kyiv’s expected counteroffensive to retake occupied Russian territory, which was originally expected to take place during the spring. However, Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said the success of their counteroffensive rests on weapon deliveries from the West, and have been reluctant to divulge any operational details.
Meanwhile, Zelensky said Kyiv “strongly” believes that the counteroffensive will succeed, telling The Wall Street Journal in an interview published early on Saturday that “we are going to do it, and we are ready.”
Calling for more U.S.-made Patriot missile defense systems, the Ukrainian president said that a lack of protection from Russian air power would mean that a “large number of soldiers will die.” He added that he would have liked to have been given more weapons from the West, “but we can’t wait for months.”
Newsweek has contacted the Ukrainian Presidential office for comment via email.
In a previous interview with multiple European public service broadcasters that was made available early last month, Zelensky said Ukrainian forces still needed more time before launching its counteroffensive.
“We can go forward, and, I think, be successful,” he said. “But we’d lose a lot of people. I think that’s unacceptable. So we need to wait. We still need a bit more time.”
In a post to Telegram on Sunday, Ukrainian deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, wrote that there “will be no start announcement” to the counteroffensive, adding that “plans love silence.”
Volodymyr Havrylov, another Ukrainian deputy defense minister, told Reuters on Saturday that the Eastern European nation will “start the counteroffensive, with the ambition to liberate our territories this year.”
Ukrainian officials have begun to “more strictly enforce a regime of informational silence about operations in preparation for upcoming counteroffensives,” the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S.-based think tank, wrote in a Saturday assessment.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, who is at the center of Russian criticism after comments he made lauding the impact of American military assistance to Ukraine—has said that Kyiv’s long-awaited counteroffensive will be “impressive,” citing information gleaned from Zelensky while visiting Kyiv.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s calls for military aid for the counteroffensive are seen as separate from Kyiv’s demands for Western-made fighter jets, such as F-16s from the United States. Western defense officials have said that, should any country take the plunge to provide the advanced jets, they would not be operational in time for this year’s expected counteroffensive.
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