In the first few months of 2023, the world awaited Ukraine’s long-anticipated spring counteroffensive.
A couple of months later, the world was anticipating Ukraine’s even longer-anticipated summer counteroffensive.
While the operation to take back Ukrainian land occupied by Russia is now underway, President Zelensky in an interview with CNN has revealed the reason it was so delayed.
When was it supposed to start?
While the original planned date has not been revealed, Zelensky said in his interview with CNN's Erin Burnett broadcast on Wednesday, July 5 that he had sought to begin the counteroffensive against Russia “much earlier” than the early June start.
As well as the general desire to liberate Ukrainian territory as soon as possible, Zelensky emphasized that the earlier it began, the less time Russian forces would have to bolster their defenses, particularly through the widespread laying of landmines.
“Our counteroffensive is slowed-down because of certain difficulties on the battlefield. Everything is heavily mined there,” Zelensky said via a translator in the pre-taped interview.
“I wanted our counteroffensive to happen much earlier, because everyone understood that if the counteroffensive started later, then a much larger area of our territory would be mined.”
What delayed the start of the summer offensive?
According to Zelensky, it was the slower than expected delivery of weapons from Ukraine’s western allies.
“I'm grateful to the US as the leaders for our support,” Zelensky said. “But I told them, as well as European leaders, that we wanted to start our counteroffensive earlier, and we would need all the weapons and material for that.”
“Why? Simply because the later we start, the slower it will go, and the greater the loss of life, because everything is heavily mined and we will have to go through it all.”
How much has this delay affected Ukraine’s summer offensive?
It’s impossible to say for certain how far Ukraine would have advanced by now if the summer offensive had begun when Zelensky originally hoped, but the progress made so far is certainly not as much as Kyiv had hoped for.
Last week, Zelensky said the summer offensive was “slower than desired” but had added that advances were being made “in all directions.”
Has anyone else expressed similar frustrations?
In another interview with US media last week, Ukraine's military commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny also expressed frustration at the slow deliveries of weaponry promised by the West, and did so in far less polite terms than his leader.
It “pi**es me off” that some in the West complain about the slow start and progress made in the long-awaited push against Russian forces in Ukraine's south, Zaluzhny told The Washington Post.
Zaluzhny said his Western supporters would not themselves have launched an offensive without air superiority, but Ukraine is still waiting for the modern aircraft such as the F-16 promised by its allies.
Zelensky told CNN that he had “emphasized” the need for F-16s many times.
“It's not even about Ukraine gaining an advantage over the Russians in the sky. This is only about being made equal,” he said, noting the difficulty of moving forward on the battlefield without air support and more long-range weaponry.
He also argued the F-16s could be viewed as “humanitarian” support, as they could be used by Ukraine to help keep open a shipping corridor if Russia decides to not extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, which is set to expire on July 17.
“F-16s give us a possibility to build a defense of this corridor,” Zelensky said.
What’s the latest on the battlefield?
Ukrainian forces conducted missile strikes on Russian rear positions along the entire front over the last 24 hours, including an oil field in occupied Donetsk.
They also reportedly have gained some level of control on the southern flank of Bakhmut.
There has also been a big increase in Russian MLRS and drone losses.
You can read the full Kyiv Post daily summer offensive update here.
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