KYIV (Reuters) -President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was quoted on Wednesday as saying progress in Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces was “slower than desired”, but Kyiv would not be pressured into speeding it up. “Some people believe this is a Hollywood movie and expect results now. It’s not,” Britain’s BBC quoted him as saying in an interview. […]
Ukraine offensive makes slow gains, Zelenskiy says; Putin sees ‘lull’
KYIV (Reuters) -President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was quoted on Wednesday as saying progress in Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces was “slower than desired”, but Kyiv would not be pressured into speeding it up.
“Some people believe this is a Hollywood movie and expect results now. It’s not,” Britain’s BBC quoted him as saying in an interview. “What’s at stake is people’s lives.”
His adversary, Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Moscow had observed a “lull” in Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which began early this month. Although Ukraine still had some offensive potential, Kyiv understood it had “no chance”, Putin said in televised remarks.
Zelenskiy made a point in a separate video address of highlighting Ukraine’s successes. He said troops were advancing on the southern front and holding defence lines in the east, long the focus of Russia’s nearly 16-month-old campaign.
He specifically mentioned the Kupiansk area in the northeast, where military officials say Russian troops have been applying increasing pressure.
“In the Kupiansk sector, whatever the Russian terrorists might be planning, we are destroying the enemy. In the south, we are moving forward … In the east, we are holding our defences,” Zelenskiy said.
Ukraine says it has reclaimed eight villages in its long-awaited counteroffensive, its first substantial gains on the battlefield for seven months.
But Ukrainian forces have yet to push to the main defensive lines that Russia has had months to prepare. Kyiv is believed to have set aside 12 brigades of thousands of troops each, most of which have yet to join the fight.
Despite slow progress on the ground, Washington, one of Ukraine’s most important allies, was reported to be campaigning for greater international support for Kyiv among countries that have so far not condemned Russia’s invasion.
The Financial Times said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan will travel to Denmark this weekend to meet with officials from India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and possibly China in a bid to broaden support for Ukraine.
In the Ukrainian-held eastern town of Pokrovsk, west of the main front lines in Donetsk region, a Reuters correspondent on Wednesday heard a whistling sound followed by a powerful explosion that shook walls.
“The rocket flew right past us. The windows were blown out. A woman was wounded,” said Serhiy, an elderly resident living close to a wide crater left by the blast.
Visibly shaken, gasping for air and with a quivering voice, he picked through debris in his badly damaged home. Neighbours stood outside. Some sobbed, others tried to calm frightened children.
Throughout the eastern half of Ukraine, air raid alerts sounded in the early hours of Thursday for more than an hour, and the military issued warnings of possible missile and drone attacks.
Officials and the military reported explosions in several places including Kriviy Rih and Kremenchug in central Ukraine and Kharkiv in the east, but there were no immediate reports of strikes or casualties.
Ukraine’s armed forces general staff earlier noted enemy offensive action in the Lyman sector in the east, where officials say Russian forces have become more active. There was Russian shelling throughout the east and in Zaporizhzhia region.
The BBC quoted Zelenskiy as saying the military push was difficult because 200,000 square km (77,220 square miles) of Ukrainian territory had been mined by Russian forces.
After a flurry of early gains, Kyiv has claimed to have captured only one additional village over the past week, the hamlet of Pyatikhatky.
Both Moscow and Kyiv have stepped up longer range attacks with missiles and drones in preparation the fighting at the front. Russia said on Wednesday it shot down drones that had reached the region surrounding Moscow. Kyiv never comments on reports of attacks inside Russia.
Zelenskiy’s interview with Britain’s public broadcaster coincided with a conference in London where allies were due to pledge billions of dollars in economic and reconstruction aid.
Washington offered $1.3 billion. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Kyiv was hoping for almost $7 billion from the event.
The West has already given Ukraine tens of billions of dollars worth of military equipment, including hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles that form the core of the force available for its counteroffensive.
Some of Ukraine’s supporters worry that Kyiv will have to show impressive results on the battlefield in coming weeks or risk political support waning in the West.
Nevertheless, Ukraine expects NATO to extend an invitation to join the military alliance with an “open date” at a July 11-12 summit in Vilnius, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said.
“This can create a signal” and encourage Ukrainians, he told a webinar.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Peter Graff and Cynthia Osterman; Editing by David Gregorio and Stephen Coates)