Everyday Ukrainians share the “shut up” sentiment of their leadership about Western criticism of the pace of their military’s summer offensive, Kyiv Post has found, and believe Westerners should do more to help than just talk.
Late last week during a media conference in Spain, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Western journalists that critics of Ukraine’s counteroffensive should “shut up.”
“Criticizing the slow pace of the counteroffensive equals spitting into the face of the Ukrainian solider who sacrifices his life every day, moving forward and liberating one kilometer of Ukrainian soil after another,” Kuleba said. “I would recommend all critics to shut up.”
His country’s President took a similarly proud and pugnacious tone. On Saturday on his Telegram channel, Volodymyr Zelensky posted in response to Western criticism.
“Despite everything and no matter what anyone says, we are advancing, and that is the most important thing. We are on the move,” Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian leadership’s strong sentiment came as news emerged of further Ukrainian gains south of Robotyne in the western Zaporizhzhia region across the weekend – and was shared by Ukrainian residents from different walks of life that Kyiv Post spoke with.
Dr Oleksandr Yabchanka, 42, spoke to Kyiv Post from a Lviv hospital. He isn’t working at the facility. He’s a military patient there.
Yabchanka is recovering from his third battlefield injury of the war. A pediatrician and policy reformer prior to the full-scale war, he is now a frontline soldier with the Honor Battalion in Ukraine’s east and recently had his leg significantly wounded in combat.
Sasha Yabchanka, first row, second from left, with Honor Battalion soldiers.
“We are very grateful for the help that the West provides and that they are interested in a successful counteroffensive,” Yabchanka said. “However, ‘successful’ does not always mean fast, and, in our case, rather the opposite: an attempt at a quick attack could turn out to be a failure.”
Yabchanka’s leg injury
“It’s difficult to recall successful major offensives in modern war history that would have been conducted without air superiority. In fact, the advancing Ukrainian forces, albeit slowly and steadily, are creating a military miracle,” Yabchanka said to Kyiv Post.
Visiting Yabchanka in the hospital this weekend was his friend and former work colleague, Dmytro Gurin.
Dr Oleksandr “Sasha” Yabchanka and Dmytro Gurin ND at Lviv military rehabilitation hospital on Sept. 3
Gurin is a Mariupol-born-and-bred, first-term parliamentarian in Ukraine’s national parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.
He has single-mindedly continued to pursue social policy reform during the full-scale war, including issues such as LGTB rights, medical cannabis legalization, and healthcare reform. Because of his focus on progressing reform, Gurin only occasionally publicly comments on war-related developments.
“I would say to Western critics: ‘Welcome to our trenches. Don’t forget to leave your F-16s at home,’” Gurin, 41, succinctly stated to Kyiv Post.
One keen observer of Ukrainian developments is management consultant Brian Mefford, an American who has lived in Kyiv for 25 years.
At the beginning of the full-scale war, Mefford established and now leads an award-winning emergency relief and humanitarian effort, Help Ukraine 22/Operation Palyanytsya.
Mefford, 52, like others Kyiv Post spoke with, first defers to the expertise and experience of Ukraine’s frontline commanders – and their track-record of consistent success since the beginning of Russia full-scale invasion in February 2022.
“Let the generals do their job. They have the intel and firsthand frontline perspective that we as civilians do not,” Mefford said to Kyiv Post.
“Ukraine has a smaller army and population than Russia. That is why it’s important to save lives and not rush carelessly into harm,” he added.
Liliya Gerasymenko is a 24-year-old youth educator with the Parliamentary Education Center in Ukraine’s national parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. Like many Kyivites, she has spent many nights under Russian missile and drone fire.
She is originally from Uman and recently went back to her hometown. There, Gerasymenko visited the apartment building site where 23 civilians, including three children, were killed by a Russian missile attack in April 2023.
“I believe that only those who are directly involved in military operations have the right to give an assessment of the speed of the counteroffensive,” Gerasymenko told Kyiv Post.
“Every meter of counterattack is someone’s life. Those who believe that this is happening ‘too slowly’ should demand from the governments of their countries to help even more, so that [the offensive] could be faster,” she continued.
Evident in Ukrainians’ comments about the pace of the war is a perspective that is decidedly different from some of the Western worldview, Kyiv Post suggests.
There appears less need for ‘instant gratification’; there seems to be greater patience and perseverance toward an important goal; there is a faith in leadership, and; there is a shared determination that soldiers come home from battle.
“If a slow advance saves the lives of some defenders, let it last as long as the situation on the battlefield requires. We have no advantage in heaven,” Yabchanka said.
Kyiv Post’s interlocutors made their comments as a key Ukrainian military commander reported on the weekend that Ukraine’s troops have made an important breakthrough by breaching Russian lines in southern Ukraine.
General Oleksandr Tarnavsky, the commander of Ukraine’s forces in southern Ukraine, added that he now expected faster progress in the Zaporizhzhia area.
“Everything is ahead of us,” the General told British media.
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