Ukrainian President Voldymr Zelensky said in an interview aired on Sunday that the Ukrainian counteroffensive started later than he wanted due to a lack of weapons and training.
“We did have plans to start it in spring. But we didn’t, because, frankly, we had not enough munitions and armaments and not enough brigades properly trained in these weapons, still, more, that the training missions were held outside Ukraine,” Zelensky told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
During the lead-up to the counteroffensive, which was launched in early June, Ukrainian troops were being trained inside NATO countries. Zelensky said that the delay allowed Russia to lay more minefields, which Ukrainian forces have struggled to get through.
“And because we started it a bit later on it can be said and it will be shared truth understood by all of the experts that it provided Russia with time to mine all of our land and build several lines of defense,” he said.
Despite the massive amount of weapons and ammunition the US and its allies have poured into Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that Western officials did not believe Ukraine had enough to dislodge Russian forces. Ukraine’s Western backers hoped the Ukrainians would have been able to break through, but the offensive is faltering.
Zelensky said the counteroffensive has been at a “slower pace” due to Russia’s minefields and other defenses. He said Kyiv doesn’t “want to lose our people, our personnel.”
US officials speaking to the media have blamed Ukraine’s lack of success on its tactics, complaining Ukrainian soldiers are being too cautious and aren’t using the “combined arms” training they learned from NATO that integrates infantry, artillery, and armor. But the US and its NATO allies would never launch such an offensive without air superiority. When Ukraine did launch a major attack with armored vehicles in the first weeks of the counteroffensive, it resulted in heavy losses.