President Zelensky has said Kyiv is “ready” for the long-awaited counteroffensive but that “we would like to have certain things” in order to protect both Ukraine’s soldiers and its civilians.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Zelensky said: "There’s currently one weapon capable of stopping some types of missiles and rockets launched by the Russian Federation against our civilian population, our schools, infrastructure, and energy systems.

“The only system in the world is the Patriot.”

The US-made air defense systems have been exceptionally busy in Ukraine in recent weeks, intercepting missiles and drones launched by Russia in almost nightly attacks on the capital Kyiv.

Despite very little damage being done at huge financial cost to Moscow, some analysts believe the Kremlin’s tactic is to force Ukraine to choose between defending its cities or defending its troops when they launch the counteroffensive.

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It’s not known exactly how many Patriot systems are currently in Ukraine or where they are all stationed, but Zelensky implied that with current supplies, it is not possible to do both.

“The reality is 50 Patriots will, for the most part, prevent people from dying,” he said. 

“Everyone knows perfectly well that any counteroffensive without air superiority is very dangerous."

"A large number of soldiers will die" if Kyiv is not given the weapons to counter Russian air power, he added.

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Despite the dilemma, Zelensky suggested the counteroffensive could begin soon. “In my opinion, as of today, we are ready for it,” he said. 

“We would like to have certain things but we can’t wait for months.

"We strongly believe that we will succeed. I don’t know how long it will take. To be honest, it can go a variety of ways, completely different. But we are going to do it, and we are ready."

Kyiv received its first shipments of the American-made Patriot surface-to-air missile system in April, and US President Joe Biden on Monday suggested more aid was to come. 

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Zelesnky has been on a recent diplomatic mission to secure more badly needed weapons and equipment from Ukraine’s allies in recent weeks.

This week Ukraine and Moldova pressed European leaders for more support against Russian aggression, as they staged a strategy summit on the continent's political frontline.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte of The Netherlands called for more European allies to join his efforts to build a coalition to supply F-16 jets and Patriot missile batteries to Kyiv.

While a counteroffensive in the form of a large ground assault is still awaited, there are numerous signs that Ukraine has already begun preliminary operations to pave the way. 

Myhailo Podolyak, a senior advisor to the Ukrainian President, said last month that the tanks may not yet be rolling and Russian frontline positions aren’t yet under direct assault, but a systematic campaign to degrade Russian defenses is in already in progress.

Weapons other than Patriot systems continue to make their way to Kyiv. Two consignments of weaponry, from Sweden and Germany respectively, are not in country yet but according to many news reports will become available in the next few weeks.

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The German contribution, widespread reports from that country say, will be part of the allocated 110 Leopard I tanks. Crew training in Germany is nearing completion, according to Die Welt and other German mainstream platforms.

A Cold War fighting vehicle with a good main armament, excellent optics but thinner armor than the most modern tanks, the Leopard I fills a critical gap in the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) assault capability: a reliable tank able to blast Russian infantry out of its fortifications while offering fair levels of protection against Russian weapons.

The international coalition supporting Ukraine has been relatively slow to send Ukraine tanks, and the first batch of Leopard I – according to many reports a full battalion of 40 vehicles – will arrive in Ukraine in the first weeks of June, just in time for the probable launch of the main ground assault. 

From Sweden, social media images and official statements from Stockholm have confirmed that three powerful weapon systems in sufficient quantities to equip a full Ukrainian combat brigade – tanks, artillery and infantry fighting vehicles – are currently being dispatched.

Elsewhere in the interview with The Wall Street Journal, Zelensky said his enemy Russian President Vladimir Putin "should be afraid of the strength of the world."

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He called him a "cornered animal, he is afraid to lose his life".

Zelensky also expressed frustration at Western leaders ahead of the NATO summit in Vilnius next month, as pressure has grown to grant Ukraine a roadmap for joining the alliance.

"If we are not acknowledged and given a signal in Vilnius, I believe there is no point for Ukraine to be at this summit," he said.

 

He acknowledged that Kyiv understood it was not possible to join NATO during the Russian invasion. 

Fully modern and in some aspect state-of the art, the hundred or so Swedish combat vehicles including the CV-90 infantry fighting vehicle and Archer semi-automatic howitzer will, most likely, make the Ukrainian formation operating them the best-armed brigade on either side in the war.

It’s not clear how much training the Ukrainian army leadership will require before the unit is committed to combat, but AFU leadership already must be building the Swedish weapons’ arrival into its counteroffensive plans and timelines.

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