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Ukrainian officials fear counteroffensive may not meet expectations of partners

Sunday, 7 May 2023, 03:56
Ukrainian officials fear counteroffensive may not meet expectations of partners

Ukraine's top officials are trying to lower expectations, fearing that the outcome of the counteroffensive may not meet the expectations of their allies.

Source: The Washington Post, referring to interviews with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov

Details: In an interview with the Washington Post last week, Oleksii Reznikov said that "expectations of our counteroffensive operation are overestimated in the world".


"Most people are waiting for something huge," he said. In his view, this could lead to "emotional disappointment".

Quote from the Washington Post: "The buildup ahead of the assault — the details of which remain secret — has left Ukrainian officials grappling with a difficult question: What outcome will be enough to impress the West, especially Washington? 

Some fear that if the Ukrainians fall short, Kyiv may lose international military assistance or face new pressure to engage with Moscow at a negotiating table — not on the battlefield. Such talks would almost certainly involve Russian demands for a negotiated surrender of sovereign territory, which Ukraine has called unacceptable."

Quote from Volodymyr Zelenskyy: "I believe that the more victories we have on the battlefield, frankly, the more people will believe in us, which means we will get more help."

Details: As WP has noted, the inflated expectations are partly due to Ukraine's previous victories on the battlefield – first by repelling Russia's attempt to capture Kyiv, and later by driving the occupiers out of their strongholds in surprise attacks in Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts.

"We were inspiring because it was believed that we would fall within 72 hours," Reznikov said. However, he said, in light of the experience, the partners now have "common expectations that Ukraine will succeed again."

Reznikov has said that Western partners have told him that they now need "another example of success because we need to show it to our people."

"But I cannot tell you what the scale of this success would be. Ten kilometers, 30 kilometers, 100 kilometers, 200 kilometers?", he responded. 

Now Russia may have a geographical advantage and a larger number of soldiers. Being aware of the enormous obstacles, Ukrainian officials continue to demand additional weapons from their supporters in the West.

Zelenskyy has told the WP that Ukraine would be ready to launch a counteroffensive "as soon as it receives the weapons it has agreed on with its partners".

Reznikov has revealed to WP that Ukraine's "first assault unit" is more than 90% ready for the start of the operation, but some units are still training abroad.

According to Zelenskyy, he will consider the liberation of any Ukrainian territory a success.

"I can't tell you which cities, which borders are [considered] a significant success for us, and which are an average success... only because I don't want to prepare Russia for how, on which fronts, where and when we will [attack – ed.]," he said.

Ideally, as Reznikov says, a counteroffensive would not only liberate villages and towns, but also "cut the logistic chains of [Russian – ed.] troops" and "reduce their offensive capability".

Ukraine is also asking for weapons to carry out long-range strikes. Kyiv's partners have long expressed concerns that such weapons could be used to strike at Russian territory, which could potentially provoke a large-scale escalation on Moscow's part. But the absence of such weapons puts Ukraine at a significant disadvantage, Zelenskyy said.

"I don't quite understand, I'll tell you frankly, why we can't get long-range artillery," he said, assuring that Ukraine would not use such weapons to strike at Russian territory, as some allies fear.

Zelenskyy has stated that it was the lack of long-range artillery that prevented Ukrainian forces from pushing Russian troops out of the territory they control on the left (eastern) bank of the Dnipro River after liberating Kherson.

"They can take troops from there and move them to the east or to the south. And still, they are reinforcing. Why? Because they know that we cannot reach them … and we suffer every day because they have the ability to shoot at our people," Zelenskyy said.

"They withdrew all their command posts, fuel depots, ammunition depots, more than 120 kilometres away. That’s why we need something interesting with a range capability of 150 kilometers. It’s become more difficult for them logistically. But we need to push them deeper and deeper," Reznikov added.

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