KIEV, Ukraine (HPD) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced the postponement of his long-awaited counter-offensive against Russian occupying forces, saying that doing so now would cost too many Ukrainian lives, even if he would succeed.
His comments, in an interview with European broadcasters, were released shortly before Britain announced it was sending Ukraine air-to-surface cruise missiles that would allow Ukrainian pilots to target places far behind the war front line.
With the end of winter and the arrival of spring, Ukraine was expected to launch a counter-offensive in response to the Russian invasion of more than 14 months. “We can continue (with what we have) and be successful,” Zelenskyy said in the interview.
“But we would lose a lot of people. I think that is unacceptable, ”added the president according to what he was quoted as saying. The interview was conducted in kyiv with public service broadcasters that are members of Eurovision News, including the BBC.
“So we have to wait. We still need a little more time,” Zelenskyy added. “In terms of equipment, not everything has arrived yet.”
Ukraine is receiving Western training, as well as sophisticated weapons for its troops, as it prepares for the expected counterattack.
Later Thursday, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told lawmakers in the House of Commons that Britain has sent Storm Shadow long-range cruise missiles, a deep-strike weapon with a range of more than 250 kilometers, to Ukraine ( 150 miles).
By comparison, US-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers that must be mounted on trucks fire GPS-guided missiles capable of hitting targets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) away.
The shells “are either in the country or on their way,” Wallace said. He did not specify the amount.
The new air-fired missiles will give Ukraine the ability to reach far beyond the front lines, including Crimea, the Kremlin-annexed peninsula. According to the British media, the Ukrainian authorities have promised not to use the projectiles to attack Russian territory.
The British move gives another boost to the Ukrainian army after it received other advanced Western weapons, including tanks and long-range precision artillery.
Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the US Army in Europe, tweeted: “Well done UK!”
“This will give Ukraine the ability to make Crimea untenable for Russian forces” and will force Russia to reassess the positioning of its Black Sea fleet, Hodges opined.
Sidharth Kaushal, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said Storm Shadow missiles could allow Ukraine to attack Russia’s Black Sea fleet and support ships in Sevastopol, where Moscow has used Kalibr missiles “to attack crucial Ukrainian infrastructure.” ”.
While there has long been talk of a possible Ukrainian counterattack when the weather improves, there has been no word on when it might happen. Zelenskyy’s remarks could try to keep the Russians on their toes as both sides struggle with ammunition supplies, adding further uncertainty.
A claim by the Ukrainian army on Wednesday that its troops had advanced up to 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) around the disputed eastern town of Bakhmut led to the belief that the counteroffensive was already underway.
Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Eastern Operational Command, told The Associated Press that the fighting and advance was not the “big counteroffensive, but a harbinger that shows there will be more such attacks in the future.”
Jill Lawless reported from London. Lorne Cook contributed from Brussels.