Kiev: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has acknowledged that progress in the war-torn nation’s counter-offensive to recapture areas seized by Russia, has been “slower than desired” since it was launched on June 10.
Speaking to the BBC, the President said: “Some people believe this is a Hollywood movie and expect results now. It’s not. What’s at stake is people’s lives.”
According to authorities in Kiev, Ukrainian forces have reclaimed eight villages so far in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk to the east.
Zelensky said the military push was not going easily because 200,000 sq.km. of Ukrainian territory had been mined by Russian forces.
“Whatever some might want, including attempts to pressure us, with all due respect, we will advance on the battlefield the way we deem best,” the President told the BBC.
He reinforced the need for Ukraine to be given security guarantees from NATO but said ultimately the goal was membership of the defensive alliance.
“(NATO chief Jens) Stoltenberg knows my position… We’ve told them numerous times: ‘Don’t knock the ground from under our feet’.”
Zelensky’s remarks came ahead of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, which will focus on the role the private sector can play in rebuilding his country.
The President told the BBC that the support he needed was not just for recovery but for transformation as well.
He said “quick steps” to be done immediately included finding places for people to live, rebuilding the destroyed Kakhovka dam and decentralising the energy network.
“But on the larger scale we are speaking about the transformation of Ukraine,” he explained. “This is Ukraine not only with its energy and agriculture and industrial complexes, but with its reforms we can see.”
Regarding the end-game of the war, Zelensky said “victories on the battlefield are necessary” and that “no matter how far we advance in our counter-offensive, we will not agree to a frozen conflict because that is war, that is a prospectless development for Ukraine”.
When asked about Russia’s recent announcement of moving tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, he said: “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin has been dangerous for us since 2014 when he occupied the first of our territories. He will talk about the use of nuclear weapons, I don’t think he is ready to do it because he is scared for his life, he loves it a lot.
“But there is no way I could say for sure, especially about a person with no ties to reality, who in the 21st Century, launched a full-scale war against their neighbour.”