- Zelenskiy said more armored vehicles would reduce casualties
- Kyiv said Russian forces pushed back up to 2 km near Bakhmut
- The Kremlin acknowledges that the situation is ‘very difficult’
May 11 (Reuters) – Ukraine is holding fire until more Western armored vehicles arrive before it begins a long-awaited counteroffensive to retake territory occupied by Russia, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an interview released on Thursday.
“We need a little more time,” Zelenskiy said in an interview with European broadcasters, according to Britain’s BBC.
Ukrainian forces have already received enough equipment from Western allies for a campaign, but some of the promised armored vehicles are still arriving. Waiting a little longer for them would reduce casualties, he said.
“With [what we have] we can move forward and be successful,” he said. “But we will lose a lot of people. I don’t think that’s acceptable.”
The war in Ukraine is at a turning point, with Kyiv poised to launch its new counterstrike after six months of keeping its forces on the defensive, while Russia launched a major winter offensive that failed to capture the significant territory.
Western allies are sending hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles to Ukraine for its counteroffensive and have trained thousands of Ukrainian troops abroad.
Moscow’s main target for months has been the small eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which it has come close to capturing but has yet to capture for what would be its only prize after months of Europe’s bloodiest ground fighting since World War II.
In recent days, Ukraine has claimed victories outside the city. Both a Ukrainian unit and the head of Russia’s Wagner private army said a Russian brigade fled its positions on Tuesday, giving up a chunk of land southwest of Bakhmut.
The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces said on Wednesday that Russian forces had withdrawn to areas up to 2 km from the front line.
The Russian defense ministry did not comment on those reports but in remarks overnight Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov acknowledged the war was “very difficult”.
He said he had no doubt that Bakhmut “will be caught and kept under control”.
In Brussels, NATO’s top military official said the war would be a battle between a large number of poorly trained Russian troops with outdated equipment and a smaller Ukrainian force with better Western weapons and training.
Admiral Rob Bauer, a Dutch official who chairs NATO’s military committee, said that Russia is deploying T-54 tanks – an old model designed in the years after World War II.
Reporting by Tom Balmforth, Olena Harmash, Pavel Polityuk, David Ljunggren and Ron Popeski; Editing by Peter Graff, Alex Richardson, David Gregorio and Diane Craft
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