Ukranian President, Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged battlefield progress has been “slower than desired”, almost three weeks after Ukraine’s military launched a counteroffensive to recapture areas occupied by Russia.
Ukraine says its counter-offensive has reclaimed eight villages so far in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk to the east but Zelensky said the military push was not going easily because 200,000 sq km (77,220 sq miles) of Ukrainian territory had been mined by Russian forces.
“Some people believe this is a Hollywood movie and expect results now. It’s not,” he told the BBC while marking a Ukraine Recovery Conference in London on Tuesday, June 20.
“What’s at stake is people’s lives.”
“Whatever some might want, including attempts to pressure us, with all due respect, we will advance on the battlefield the way we deem best”
Nato’s secretary general made clear this week that no plan was on the table to issue an invitation to Ukraine at next month’s summit in Lithuania.
Zelensky in the new interview reinforced the need for Ukraine to be given security guarantees from NATO but said ultimately the goal was membership of the defensive alliance.
“[Jens] Stoltenberg knows my position,” the Ukrainian leader said “We’ve told them numerous times: ‘Don’t knock the ground from under our feet.'”
The war time leader again made the case for Ukraine to receive US-made F-16s and said he believed fighter pilots could start training as soon as August, and that the first jets could arrive in six or seven months’ time.
Zelensky made clear that “victories on the battlefield are necessary” and that Ukraine would never sit down, whoever was president in Moscow, if Russia remained on Ukraine’s territory.
“No matter how far we advance in our counter-offensive, we will not agree to a frozen conflict because that is war, that is a prospectless development for Ukraine.”
Russia announced a few days ago that it had moved tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus and President Joe Biden has warned that the threat of Vladimir Putin using them is real. Asked if that is a dangerous move, Zelenskyy said;
“Putin has been dangerous for us since 2014 when he occupied the first of our territories,” he said.
“He will talk about the use of nuclear weapons, I don’t think he is ready to do it because he is scared for his life, he loves it a lot. But there is no way I could say for sure, especially about a person with no ties to reality, who in the 21st Century, launched a full-scale war against their neighbour.”