Slow weapons deliveries to Ukraine delayed Kyiv’s planned counteroffensive, allowing Russia to bolster its defenses in occupied areas including with mines, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a TV interview broadcast Wednesday.
Speaking to CNN‘s Erin Burnett in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa days earlier, Zelensky revealed that he had sought to begin the counteroffensive against Russia “much earlier” than its actual start in early June.
“Our slowed-down counteroffensive is happening due to certain difficulties in the battlefield. Everything is heavily mined there,” Zelensky said via a translator in the pre-taped interview.
“I wanted our counteroffensive happening much earlier, because everyone understood that if the counteroffensive will be unfolding later, then much bigger part of our territory will be mined.”
He said he had told US and European leaders ahead of the counteroffensive that a lack of supplies would result in more casualties.
“I’m grateful to the US as the leaders of our support, but I told them as well as European leaders that we would like to start our counteroffensive earlier, and we will need all the weapons and material for that.”
“Why? Simply because if we start later, it will go slower, and we will have losses of lives, because everything is heavily mined — we will have to go through it all.”
In another interview with US media last week, Ukraine’s military commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny also expressed frustration at the slow deliveries of promised weaponry from the West.
It “pisses me off” that some in the West complain about the slow start and progress of the long-awaited push against Russian forces in Ukraine’s south, Zaluzhny told The Washington Post.
Zaluzhny said his Western supporters would not themselves launch an offensive without air superiority, but Ukraine is still waiting for F-16 fighters promised by its allies.
Zelensky told CNN that he had “emphasized” the need for F-16s many times.
“It’s not even about the Ukrainian advantage of the sky over the Russians. This is only about being equal,” he said, noting the difficulty of moving forward on the battlefield without air support and more long-range weaponry.
He also argued the F-16s could be viewed as “humanitarian” support, as they could be used by Ukraine to keep open a shipping corridor if Russia decides to not extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, which is set to expire July 17.
“F-16s give us a possibility to build a defense of this corridor,” Zelensky said.