Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces were throwing “everything they can” at Kyiv troops fighting to retake land in the south and east, again underscoring the daunting nature of a counteroffensive that moving more slowly than some allies expected.
Ukrainian troops have made only small gains since launching the widely anticipated campaign in June, and in recent weeks, they appear to have stalled in some areas in the face of staunch Russian defenses. Casualties are mounting, and American officials say Ukraine has also lost newly supplied Western armored vehicles to field after field of land mines.
Mr. Zelensky said, defending the pace of the counteroffensive at his overnight address late Friday that he had a “detailed” meeting earlier with his top commanders to discuss front lines and “logistics” — including weapons and the “reasonable use of shells, supplies from partners, ” an apparent reference to the rate. where Ukrainian forces are firing ammunition.
“We all need to understand very clearly – as clearly as possible – that Russian forces in our southern and eastern lands are investing everything they can to stop our fighters,” he said. “Every thousand meters of progress, every victory of each of our combat brigade deserves thanks.”
Mr. Zelensky has repeatedly pressed his Western allies for more sophisticated weapons, and he got new pledges this week from allies at a NATO summit in Lithuania, including long-range missiles from France and more ammunition tanks from Germany. But it wasn’t immediately clear how close those weapons would come, or how much help they could provide for the counteroffensive.
One ally that has refused to send arms to Ukraine is South Korea, whose president, Yoon Suk Yeol, arrived in Ukraine on Saturday for an unexpected visit. In a statement after his meeting with the leader of South Korea, Mr. Zelensky nothing is mentioned if they discussed lethal military aid.
The United States has acknowledged that Ukrainian forces are running out of ammunition, which is one reason why President Biden last week agreed to allies’ objections to sending cluster munitions to Ukraine. The weapons are extremely dangerous for civilians and are banned by all but a few countries, including the United States, Russia and Ukraine.
The top commander of Ukraine, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, told The Washington Post in an interview published Friday that his military still lacks the necessary resources to defeat Russia and criticized allies who argued that it did not need the F-16s.
The defense ministers of Denmark and the Netherlands announced last week that they have brought together 11 countries to help train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets next month. Mr. Biden agreed in May to drop his objections to giving Ukraine F-16s, though that may not happen until next year.
Ukraine is also asking the United States for long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems, with a range of about 190 miles — about 40 miles more than the missiles supplied by France and Britain. American and European officials said the Biden administration, after months of maintaining it would not provide weapons for fear of further provoking Russia, is considering whether to send some to Ukraine.
While Mr. Yoon’s visit to Ukraine did not appear to have changed Seoul’s stance on the weapons, the trip was a notable show of support.
Seoul, reluctant to openly antagonize Moscow, has refused to send lethal aid and has imposed strict export control rules on its global arms sales. It has also provided humanitarian aid and financial support to Ukraine for demining, power grid restoration and reconstruction projects.
However, Mr. Yoon indicated that Seoul might be willing to consider sending military aid to Ukraine in the event of a large-scale attack on civilians.
He visited the towns of Bucha and Irpin — which became synonymous with Russian atrocities in the early days of the invasion — arriving on Saturday, Mr. Yoon’s office said, and then met with Mr. Zelensky.
After the meeting, Mr. Zelensky said he was “thankful” to Mr. Yoon for supporting Ukraine’s efforts for peace and security — along with “new initiatives of financial, technical and humanitarian support.”
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military continues to report heavy fighting in the south and east of the countrysaying that Russian forces in southern Ukraine are focused on “preventing further advances” by Kyiv’s troops fighting in the direction of two key Russian-occupied cities, Melitopol and Berdiansk.
Here’s what else is happening in the war:
The Russian attack killed one person and wounded another in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, the regional military administration said in a statement.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s border service said that “available information shows” that some fighters with the Wagner mercenary group were “observed in Belarus.” The comments came a day after Belarus’ Ministry of Defense said Wagner’s mercenaries were training its security forces. Questions about the fighters’ future have swirled since an agreement to end their insurgency in Russia last month included an arrangement for voluntary exile in Belarus. There is little evidence that they went there in large numbers.
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin told South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in a phone call, two days before a UN-brokered agreement that would allow Ukraine to export its grain was set to expire, that commitments to Moscow set out in the deal remained “unfulfilled,” the Kremlin said.
Russia has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the agreement, complaining that Western sanctions have restricted the sale of its agricultural products. The talk comes as South Africa grapples with Mr. Putin’s possible attendance at a summit in Johannesburg. Mr. Putin faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, and as a member of the court, South Africa is obligated to arrest him if he enters.
John Yoon contributed reporting from Seoul.