In an interview with CBS, the Ukrainian president acknowledged that the counter-offensive was progressing with difficulty. An observation that is becoming more and more evident among observers of the conflict.
“We are in an artillery duel that fires 40,000 shells a day. The Ukrainian infantry continues its bloody advance, meter by meter. It’s the First World War with drones,” President Zelensky declared on September 17 in a long interview with the American channel CBS.
“The tanks donated by the West were supposed to pierce and cut the Russian forces in two”
“Today, the front extends over 1,100 km. (…) The tanks given by the West were supposed to break through and cut the Russian forces in two. But the trenches, minefields and artillery stopped the advance of the armored vehicles,” he also conceded.
Asked about the situation at the front, Volodymyr Zelensky did not hide the Ukrainian difficulties: “It’s a difficult question. I’m going to be completely honest with you. We have the initiative, that’s a plus (but) despite that, (the counter-offensive) is not very fast.”
Confirming her words, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar claimed meager results on September 18, the day of her dismissal: in the east in the direction of Bakhmout, 2 square kilometers were reconquered last week and 51 in everything since the start of the counter-offensive.
Russian Defense, for its part, claims to be inflicting “colossal losses”, in the words of Sergei Shoigu, on the Ukrainian army. “The Ukrainian armed forces have not achieved their objectives in any direction,” argued the Russian minister on September 5, in the third month of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, which began in early June.
A widely shared pessimism
The disappointing results of the Ukrainian forces, which nevertheless cost them significant human losses, gave rise to a wave of pessimism regarding a victory for Kiev, for example that of Elon Musk who deplored on September 18 “so many deaths for so few “.
Defeatist atmosphere also for the British daily The Telegraph, which headlined on September 16: “Morale is deteriorating in Ukraine, which is preparing for a long and bloody war.” The article explained this phenomenon by “great losses and the prospects of a never-ending war.” And the daily reported the words of a Ukrainian officer for whom “the big difference with 2022 is that there are now many more deaths”.
“Out of 100 people recruited in the fall of 2022, only 10 or 20 remain”
A statement that echoes a statement in the newspaper Poltavshchina from the head of the recruitment office of the Ukrainian region of Poltava, Vitali Bérejnoï, according to which “out of 100 people recruited in the fall of 2022, only 10 or 20 remain. The others are dead, injured or discharged”. The soldier added that as of September 15, the office had only met its conscription target by 13%.
Since the beginning of September, the Ukrainian president has already issued similar statements twice. On September 8, he considered that the counter-offensive was “stopped” by the Russian air force and urged the West to bring forward the delivery of the F-16s. On September 10, he predicted that the Ukrainian offensive would not be a movie with a “happy ending.”