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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Zelenskyy says military hardware from the West has been arriving ‘in batches’

Gravediggers carry the coffin of a civilian killed last week by Russian shelling in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson as smoke from fresh shelling rises in the distance, May 10, 2023. (Finbarr O’Reilly/The New York Times)

By Shashank Bengali and Lara Jakes

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Ukraine needs more time to begin a planned counteroffensive because its allies have not yet delivered enough of the equipment they have pledged, raising fresh questions over the country’s plans for a military operation that Western officials have said could be its best chance to retake territory seized by Russia.

In an interview that aired on the BBC on Thursday, Zelenskyy said that in terms of personnel and motivation, Ukraine’s forces were “ready” for the operation, but that they were still waiting for some military hardware, specifically armored vehicles, which had been arriving “in batches.” NATO member states have already sent billions of dollars in tanks, armored vehicles, drones, missiles and launchers and ammunition to Ukraine.

With the weapons that Ukraine has already received, “we can go forward, and, I think, be successful,” Zelenskyy said in the interview. “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.”

It was not clear whether Zelenskyy’s comments were an attempt at misdirection in an information war that has been full of feints and surprises. For weeks, Ukrainian officials have said that they were in the final stages of planning for the counteroffensive, while not disclosing when or where it might start.

As recently as 10 weeks ago, Western weapons deliveries still fell far short of what Ukraine needed for a counteroffensive that had long been planned for this spring or summer, according to classified U.S. military assessments from February and March.

But late last month, the top NATO military commander, U.S. Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, told a congressional panel that Ukraine had by that point received 98% of the combat vehicles that would be necessary to launch the battle.

U.S. officials are accelerating the delivery of Abrams tanks to Ukraine, and they will potentially reach the battlefield by this fall, months before what was originally thought possible. But the Biden administration has adamantly maintained that it will not send F-16 fighter jets, despite pleas from Ukraine to send the warplanes or give export licenses to other countries to transfer theirs to Ukraine.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov urged Western allies to quickly send more weapons for the anticipated counteroffensive.

“Time is of the essence,” Reznikov said in taped remarks to the annual European Defense and Security Summit in Brussels. “Prolonging or freezing the war means lost lives, means human suffering. Ukraine wants to turn the tide on the battlefield this year. Ukraine has already proven on the battlefield that victory is possible. But we need help.”

Reznikov did not mention any specific weapons systems or shortfalls in his comments Thursday, which officials said were taped a day earlier.

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