Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy characterized the Ukrainian military’s summer counteroffensive against Russia as a disappointment, failing to achieve its expansive goal of pushing Russian forces back to pre-2014 lines, in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday.

Ukraine’s forces have made incremental advances against Russian lines and crippled Moscow’s Black Sea naval fleet, Zelenskyy said, but did not achieve major routs similar to those claimed in a previous counteroffensive. Zelenskyy toldthe AP that Ukraine lacked both the manpower and the weapons from allies it needed to make a quick advance and push back Russian troops.

“We wanted faster results. From that perspective, unfortunately, we did not achieve the desired results. And this is a fact,” he said.

The Ukrainian president was in Kharkiv following a tour throughout the country aimed at boosting morale, according to the AP.

Winter will bring new challenges, Zelenskyy told the outlet, but said that Ukraine is determined not to give up on the fight to expel invading forces.

“Look, we are not backing down, I am satisfied. We are fighting with the second (best) army in the world, I am satisfied,” he said, referring to the Russian military.

However, speaking about whether he was satisfied with the counteroffensive, Zelenskyy added, “We are losing people — I’m not satisfied. We didn’t get all the weapons we wanted — I can’t be satisfied, but I also can’t complain too much.”

He also noted that the ongoing conflict in the Middle East has captured the attention of the U.S., Ukraine’s biggest backer, and worried that competing political priorities could jeopardize Western resources and support for Ukraine.

The U.S. has devoted heavy weaponry and long-range missiles in limited quantities. Ukraine could not commit the 31 U.S.-made Abrams main battle tanks to the conflict until the fall, after training and deliveries were completed, and so far there is only one documented use of the long-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), in October.

Still, American military support for Ukraine, now totaling $44 billion, includes short range artillery systems along with millions of rounds of standard artillery ammunition, Patriot air defense systems, infantry fighting vehicles and more, according to the latest fact sheet.

Artillery stockpiles are running low, even as the winter months will bring a heavier reliance on fires over maneuver warfare. It also brings renewed fears of Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian cities and energy infrastructure, according to the AP.

“We have a new phase of war, and that is a fact,” Zelenskyy told the AP. “Winter as a whole is a new phase of war.”

On Nov. 25, Moscow launched the largest drone attack since the war began in February 2022, according to the AP.

“There is not enough power to achieve the desired results faster. But this does not mean that we should give up, that we have to surrender,” Zelenskyy told the AP. He is working to boost domestic artillery production.

“This is the way out,” he said.

Micaela Burrow on December 1, 2023

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