Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press that the war with Russia is in a new stage, with winter expected to complicate fighting after a summer counteroffensive that failed to produce desired results due to enduring shortages of weapons and ground forces.
“Look, we are not backing down, I am satisfied. We are fighting with the second [best] army in the world, I am satisfied. 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,” explained Zelenskyy.
The long-awaited counteroffensive, powered by Western military aid, failed to achieve anticipated breakthroughs. Simultaneously, dwindling ammunition supplies pose a risk of halting Ukrainian battlefield operations. As winter approaches, bringing freezing temperatures and exposed soldiers, military leaders face renewed challenges, including the threat of Russian aerial assaults targeting energy infrastructure and civilians in cities.
“That is why a winter war is difficult. Winter as a whole is a new phase of war,” Zelenskyy said.
Zelenskyy said there were some positive takeaways from the last few months. Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet weakened after Ukrainian attacks, and a grain corridor established by Kyiv post-Russia’s withdrawal from a safety agreement is operational. However, Zelenskyy focuses on the future, particularly enhancing domestic arms production.
Despite a significant budget allocation, more than the current output is needed to shift the tide of the war. In recent discussions with Biden, Congress members, and top officials, Zelenskyy urgently appealed for cheap loans and licenses to manufacture US weaponry.
“This is the way out. Give us these opportunities, and we will build. Whatever effort and time it will take, we will do it, and we will do it very quickly,” Zelenskyy said.
He argued that by helping Ukraine, Americans are also helping themselves.
“In the case of Ukraine, if resilience fails today due to lack of aid and shortages of weapons and funding, it will mean that Russia will most likely invade NATO countries. And then the American children will fight,” he said.
Zelenskyy worries that the intense turmoil in the Middle East, the most violent in decades, may divert global attention and resources, impacting Ukraine’s ability to defend itself.
“You see, attention equals help. No attention will mean no help. We fight for every bit of attention. Without attention, there may be weakness in [the US] Congress,” stressed Zelenskyy.
The war has rendered it impossible to conduct a presidential election in Ukraine, initially scheduled for March according to the constitution. While Zelenskyy expressed readiness for an election, most Ukrainians consider it “dangerous and meaningless” amid the ongoing war.