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The AP Interview: Ukraine’s Zelenskyy says the conflict with Russia is in a brand new section as winter looms

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KHARKIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the conflict with Russia is in a brand new stage, with winter anticipated to complicate preventing after a summer time counteroffensive that failed to provide desired outcomes resulting from enduring shortages of weapons and floor forces.

Regardless of setbacks, nonetheless, he mentioned Ukraine will not surrender.

“We’ve a brand new section of conflict, and that may be a truth,” Zelenskyy mentioned in an unique interview Thursday with The Related Press in Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine after a morale-boosting tour of the area. “Winter as a complete is a brand new section of conflict.”

Requested if he was happy by the outcomes of the counteroffensive, he gave a posh reply.

“Look, we aren’t backing down, I’m happy. We’re preventing with the second (finest) military on the earth, I’m happy,” he mentioned, referring to the Russian navy. However he added: “We’re dropping folks, I’m not happy. We didn’t get all of the weapons we needed, I can’t be happy, however I can also’t complain an excessive amount of.”

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Zelenskyy additionally mentioned he fears the Israel-Hamas conflict threatens to overshadow the battle in Ukraine, as competing political agendas and restricted assets put the move of Western navy support to Kyiv in danger.

And people issues are amplified by the tumult that inevitably arises throughout a U.S. election yr and its potential implications for his nation, which has seen the worldwide group largely rally round it following Russia’s Feb. 24, 2022, invasion.

The extremely anticipated counteroffensive, powered by tens of billions of {dollars} in Western navy support, together with heavy weaponry, didn’t forge the anticipated breakthroughs. Now, some Ukrainian officers fear whether or not additional help can be as beneficiant.

On the identical time, ammunition stockpiles are operating low, threatening to deliver Ukrainian battlefield operations to a standstill.

With winter set to cloak a wartime Ukraine as soon as once more, navy leaders should take care of new however acquainted challenges because the battle grinds towards the tip of its second full yr: There are freezing temperatures and barren fields that depart troopers uncovered. And there is the renewed risk of widespread Russian aerial assaults in cities that focus on vitality infrastructure and civilians.

On Nov. 25, Moscow launched its most in depth drone assault of the conflict, with many of the 75 Iranian-made Shahed drones focusing on Kyiv in a troubling precedent for the months forward.

“That’s the reason a winter conflict is tough,” Zelenskyy mentioned.

He gave a frank appraisal of the final summer time’s counteroffensive.

“We needed sooner outcomes. From that perspective, sadly, we didn’t obtain the specified outcomes. And it is a truth,” he mentioned.

Ukraine didn’t get all of the weapons it wanted from allies, he mentioned, and limits within the measurement of his navy power precluded a fast advance, he mentioned.

“There may be not sufficient energy to attain the specified outcomes sooner. However this doesn’t imply that we should always surrender, that now we have to give up,” Zelenskyy mentioned. “We’re assured in our actions. We struggle for what’s ours.”

White Home Nationwide Safety Council spokesman John Kirby, responding to Zelenskyy’s feedback about navy support, mentioned the U.S. offered “unprecedented” assist.

“I actually can’t dispute President Zelenskyy’s estimation that they haven’t achieved the success that that they had hoped to attain,” Kirby mentioned. “However I can guarantee you that the US has performed every thing we will.”

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration desires to present extra however faces resistance from Republican representatives in Congress, Kirby mentioned.

“And if we don’t get that assist from Congress, the message it’s going to ship around the globe about how a lot Ukraine issues and the way a lot the US and our management can ship to our companions around the globe goes to be loud and clear and deeply unlucky,” Kirby mentioned.

Zelenskyy mentioned there have been some Positive takeaways from the previous couple of months.

Ukraine managed to make incremental territorial good points towards a better-armed and fortified enemy, Zelenskyy mentioned.

As well as, the may of Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet has been diminished, following Ukrainian assaults that penetrated air defenses and struck its headquarters in occupied Crimea, Zelenskyy added.

And a short lived grain hall established by Kyiv following Russia’s withdrawal from a wartime settlement to make sure the secure exports remains to be working.

Zelenskyy, although, isn’t dwelling on the previous however is targeted on the subsequent stage — boosting home arms manufacturing.

A sizeable chunk of Ukraine’s funds is allotted for that, however present output is much from sufficient to show the tide of conflict. Now, Zelenskyy is trying to Western allies, together with the U.S., to supply favorable loans and contracts to satisfy that aim.

“That is the way in which out,” Zelenskyy mentioned, including that nothing terrifies Russia greater than a militarily self-sufficient Ukraine.

When he final met with Biden, members of Congress and different high officers, he made one pressing enchantment: Give Ukraine low cost loans and licenses to fabricate U.S. weaponry.

“Give us these alternatives, and we’ll construct,” he mentioned he advised them. “No matter time and effort it can take, we’ll do it, and we’ll do it in a short time.”

Zelenskyy stays involved that upheaval within the Center East, essentially the most violent in a long time, threatens to take international consideration and assets away from Ukraine’s skill to defend itself.

“We already can see the implications of the worldwide group shifting (consideration) due to the tragedy within the Center East,” he mentioned. “Solely the blind don’t acknowledge this.”

Ukrainians perceive “that we additionally have to struggle for consideration for the full-scale conflict,” he mentioned. “We should not permit folks to overlook concerning the conflict right here.”

That change in focus might result in much less financial and navy help for his nation, he mentioned. In an obvious try to assuage these fears, U.S. and European officers have continued to go to Kyiv because the Oct. 7 assaults in Israel.

The shift nonetheless issues him, Zelenskyy mentioned.

“You see, consideration equals assist. No consideration will imply no assist. We struggle for each little bit of consideration,” he mentioned. “With out consideration, there could also be weak spot in (the U.S.) Congress.”

Turning to the upcoming U.S. presidential and congressional campaigns, the place Biden faces skepticism over his staunch assist for Kyiv, Zelenskyy acknowledged that “elections are at all times a shock, and it’s fully comprehensible.”

A current AP ballot i n the U.S. confirmed almost half of People suppose an excessive amount of is being spent on Ukraine. An growing variety of Republicans are usually not in favor of sending extra support, and it isn’t clear if or when a request from the White Home for extra support can be authorized by Congress.

When requested about this, Zelenskyy replied bluntly that “the selection of People is the selection of People.”

However he argued that by serving to Ukraine, People are additionally serving to themselves.

“Within the case of Ukraine, if resilience fails at the moment resulting from lack of support and shortages of weapons and funding, it can imply that Russia will almost definitely invade NATO nations,” he mentioned. “After which the American youngsters will struggle.”

Zelenskyy has sought just lately to make sure Ukraine’s conflict machine was operating because it ought to by making a current shakeup of top-level authorities officers, relating one other of his objectives to struggle graft in a post-Soviet establishment rife with corruption as a prelude to becoming a member of the European Union.

He mentioned he has to understand how weapons, provides, meals and even clothes are being delivered to the entrance — and what fails to get there.

“On one hand, this isn’t the job of the president, however alternatively, I can belief those that didn’t simply cross on the data to me, however advised me in particular person,” he mentioned.

The static battle strains haven’t introduced strain from Ukraine’s allies to barter a peace cope with Russia.

“I don’t really feel it but,” he mentioned, though he added: “Some voices are at all times heard.”

Ukraine desires to “push the system for peace and contain as many nations of the world as potential, in order that they politically isolate Russia,” he famous.

The conflict has additionally made it not possible to carry a presidential election in Ukraine, initially slated for March below the structure, he mentioned.

Though Zelenskyy mentioned he was prepared to carry an election, most Ukrainians are usually not, believing such a vote to be “harmful and meaningless” as conflict rages round them.

With a funds anticipating spending 22% of the nation’s GDP for protection and nationwide safety, Ukraine’s financial system is being restructured round a conflict for ever and ever, very like the day-to-day lives of its residents.

That raised one other query: How lengthy can Zelenskyy himself address being the chief of a rustic at conflict?

There are not any phrases to explain how tough the job is, he mentioned, however he can also’t think about leaving the put up.

“You truthfully can’t try this,” he mentioned. “This may be very unfair, unsuitable and undoubtedly demotivating.”


Observe AP’s protection of the conflict in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.


Related Press author Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed.

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