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Zelenskyy to AFP: Ukraine’s air defense at 25%, Russia’s Kharkiv assault to come in waves

In the new interview, he discussed air defense, the Russian offensive, China’s role in peace talks, and the West’s stance on the war’s outcome.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy during an intervierw with French AFP.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during an interview with the AFP team. Photo: president.gov.ua
Zelenskyy to AFP: Ukraine’s air defense at 25%, Russia’s Kharkiv assault to come in waves

In an interview with French news agency AFP, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shared his insights on the ongoing war with Russia and the challenges Ukraine faces. 

Here are the key takeaways.

Can Russia capture Kyiv and Kharkiv?

While Russia may intensify its offensive, it does not aim to capture Kharkiv.

“They started their operation. It could consist of several waves. There was the first wave, and the situation there is controlled,” said Zelenskyy.

Russians want to attack Kharkiv but they understand that it is a very difficult task due to the city’s size and the Ukrainian army’s determination to resist.

“If they are stopped, they will not die in millions for the sake of Kharkiv,” believes Zelenskyy.

He also stated that Russia currently lacks the forces for a full-scale offensive on Kyiv, as it had at the beginning of the invasion.

The battle for the skies

“I believe that today, we have about 25% of what we need to defend Ukraine. I’m talking about air defense,” said Zelenskyy.

To prevent Russia from gaining air superiority, Ukraine requires 120 to 130 modern aircraft, specifically a fleet of F-16s, to achieve parity.

Moscow’s “biggest advantage” now is the restriction preventing Ukraine from using Western-supplied weapons to strike Russian territory.

No Olympic truce

Zelenskyy rejected French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for an Olympic truce during the Paris Games, arguing that it would benefit Moscow. Zelenskyy said that Russia could use the truce to advance its troops.

“Tell me, I told Emmanuel [Macron], who can guarantee that Russia will not use this time to bring its forces to our territory?”

Call to China

Chinese leaders “live a little bit with the feeling that if Russia loses the war, it is not a loss for Russia, but a victory for the US. For them, it is a victory for the West. And they want to find a balance between the two.” 

The Ukrainian President emphasized the importance of China’s participation in the global Peace Summit on June 15-16 in Switzerland, as Chinese leaders have influence over Russia.

The West is “afraid”

Zelenskyy said that while Ukraine and its Western allies share the “same values,” they often have “different views,” particularly regarding what the end of the conflict might look like. Kyiv wants a “just peace,” Zelenskyy stated.

“We are in a nonsense situation where the West is afraid that Russia will lose the war. And it does not want Ukraine to lose it.”

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