President Zelenskiy expects Russian attacks in northeastern Ukraine to intensify

President Zelenskiy expects Russian attacks in northeastern Ukraine to intensify

In an exclusive interview with AFP, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy predicted Russia would step up its offensive in the northeast, warning that Kiev had only a quarter of the air defenses needed to hold the front line.

After making only modest advances in recent months, Russian forces launched a surprise attack in the Kharkov region on May 10, marking their biggest territorial gains in a year and a half.

President Zelenskiy said Russian forces were able to advance 5 to 10 kilometers (3 to 6 miles) along the northeastern border before being stopped by Ukrainian forces, but said the area was the “primary point” for a broader offensive. It added that there was a possibility of “waves”.

“I wouldn't say it's a huge success (for Russia), but we need to calm down and understand that they are moving deeper and deeper into our territory,” he said on Friday, the first attack since the attack from Kiev. He said this in an interview with foreign media. Began.

President Zelenskiy said the situation in the Kharkiv region was “under control” but “has not stabilized.”

As the war enters its third year, it appeals to its allies to send more air defense planes and fighter jets to contest Russia's air superiority.

“Currently we have about 25 percent of what we need to defend Ukraine. I'm talking about air defense,” he said.

Zelenskiy said Ukraine needs “120 to 130” F-16 jets or other advanced aircraft to achieve aviation “parity” with Russia.

Kharkov raid

Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a visit to China this week that the attacks in the northeast were in retaliation for Ukraine's shelling of border areas and that Russia was seeking to create a “safe zone.”

According to AFP calculations using data from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian forces captured 278 square kilometers (107 square miles) between May 9 and 15, their biggest gains since the end of 2022.

Russia announced on Saturday that it had captured another village in the Kharkiv region.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces said it was “focusing its main efforts on preventing the advance of Russian occupation forces.”

Ukraine has evacuated around 10,000 people from its northeastern border region since Russia began its offensive.

Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian soldiers in the eastern town of Bobchansk of capturing dozens of civilians as “human shields” to protect their headquarters, but AFP could not immediately confirm this claim. There wasn't.

Lowering the recruitment age

President Putin said that at this stage he had no intention of occupying Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, which is about 30 kilometers from the border. More than 1 million people still live there.

With no end to the war in sight, Ukraine's military is struggling to attract new recruits, while its fighters are exhausted and angry over a lack of rotation.

President Zelenskiy signed a mobilization law into force on Saturday, acknowledging problems with staffing and “morale” within Ukraine's often-outgunned and outgunned military.

“We need to staff the reserves…Many (brigades) are empty,” Zelenskiy told AFP.

Many Ukrainian soldiers have been fighting for more than two years without the possibility of discharge.

Kiev lowered the draft age for men from 27 to 25 and increased penalties for those who evaded the draft.

Long and bureaucratic mobilization procedures were also streamlined and an online registration system was created, with more than 150,000 people logging in on Saturday morning.

Lawmakers withdrew a proposal to give soldiers the option of leaving the military after serving more than 36 months.

“Nonsense situation”

Ukraine's strongest allies, the Baltic states and Poland, are nervous that Russia might try to attack them.

Poland announced it would spend $2.5 billion to strengthen its eastern border, which includes Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

While other Western allies called for an early end to the war, President Zelenskiy insisted that Ukraine was still in a long war.

“Western countries want the war to end, period. As soon as possible. And for them, this is a just peace,” he said.

He urged allies to take a firmer approach towards Russia, including allowing military attacks on Russian territory with Western weapons.

“We are in a nonsense situation where the Western countries are afraid that Russia will lose the war. And they don't want Ukraine to lose it,” Zelenskiy said.

But Russian air defense officials said on Saturday that they had destroyed a French-made guided bomb and a U.S.-made anti-radar missile over the western region of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine.


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