Zelensky acknowledges slower progress in the Ukraine war but emphasizes it’s not a movie-like scenario.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has admitted that the progress on the battlefield in Ukraine’s military offensive to retake Russian-occupied areas has been slower than desired. Zelensky addressed some people’s unrealistic expectations, comparing the situation to a Hollywood movie and stressing the real-life consequences at stake.
Ukraine has reported the recapture of eight villages in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia and eastern Donetsk. However, Zelensky explained that the offensive is challenging due to extensive mine-laying by Russian forces, covering approximately 200,000 square kilometers (77,220 square miles) of Ukrainian territory.
Undeterred by pressure, Zelensky affirmed that Ukraine would continue advancing on the battlefield according to its own strategic considerations. While emphasizing the need for security guarantees from NATO, he ultimately expressed Ukraine’s aspiration to join the defensive alliance.
Regarding Ukraine’s request for US-made F-16 fighter jets, Zelensky stated that he believed fighter pilots could begin training as early as August, with the arrival of the first jets within six or seven months.
Zelensky’s remarks were conducted during the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, which aimed to explore the role of the private sector in rebuilding the country. The Ukrainian leader also participated in the conference alongside UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Ukraine’s economy suffered a significant contraction of 29.2% in 2022, and the World Bank estimated the cost of reconstruction and recovery at $411 billion (£339 billion). Zelensky highlighted the need for both immediate steps, such as finding housing solutions for people and rebuilding infrastructure, and larger-scale transformations, including digitization, judicial reforms, and anti-corruption measures.
When asked about the war’s endgame, Zelensky emphasized the importance of achieving victories on the battlefield and firmly rejected the idea of a frozen conflict, expressing that it would be a prospectless and unacceptable situation for Ukraine.
In response to Russia’s recent announcement of moving tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus and President Joe Biden’s warning about the potential use of such weapons by Vladimir Putin, Zelensky acknowledged the danger posed by Putin but expressed doubt about the Russian leader’s willingness to utilize nuclear weapons due to personal concerns.
Lastly, Zelensky was taken aback when asked about Putin’s derogatory remarks about him at an international conference, particularly considering his personal connection to the Holocaust. While visibly grappling with a response, Zelensky compared Putin’s words to a lack of understanding and stated that it seemed as though Putin was the second “king of antisemitism” after Hitler, implying a deep disappointment and disbelief in Putin’s behavior.