This has been a bittersweet week for Ukraine. On the battlefield it has suffered from the slow but steady advance of Russian forces around the eastern city of Severodonetsk, with attacks as far as nearby Lisichansk. The good news has come from the diplomatic front. kyiv is confident that the strong political support of its European partners, who for the first time show it a future in the EU, will definitively remove it from Moscow’s sphere of influence. “The road to becoming a member of the EU brings us closer to victory,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday.
But this strategy is still missing a piece that doesn’t quite fit: the arrival of Western weapons. In Zelensky’s team they repeat that Ukraine can recover territories lost in recent weeks, and thus achieve a better position for future negotiations with Russia. But only if their friendly countries comply and send what they ask for: artillery, rocket launchers, tanks, armored vehicles, anti-ship missiles, drones… Everything they consider necessary to tip the scales in their favor.
“We have warned the EU countries that they are not being fast enough. We don’t care about promises, only what we see on the ground. We need them now, in the next few weeks. If they arrive in two or three months it may be too late, because the situation in the east and in the occupied areas of the south is very difficult, ”Igor Zovkva, deputy director of the Zelenski Cabinet, assures EL PAÍS, in one of the few moments free that these hectic days leave you.
The Government believes that the war has settled into a stalemate in which each advance, no matter how small, is extremely costly in terms of human lives and equipment. But kyiv is confident that the arrival of the long-awaited military material will be a turning point that will allow it to prevail over Russian forces in strategic places, thus facilitating the conclusion of the war in the coming months.
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The second scenario that Zelensky’s team is considering, much more negative, is a conflict entrenched for years in which neither side manages to prevail. None of the sources consulted in kyiv considers the possibility of a defeat. “Many people do not realize the scope of the battle in which we are immersed, with a front line of 2,500 kilometers, of which 1,000 are active. Europe has not seen a confrontation of this caliber since World War II, ”says a ministerial official. “We are risking our lives and our freedom. If Russia loses, the war is over. If we lose, Ukraine ceases to exist. We cannot afford it,” adds opposition MP Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze.
Positive signs for kyiv
Despite criticism for the delay, those responsible for the country admit that something is moving. Both the Wednesday meeting of NATO defense ministers and the visit to kyiv a day later by the leaders of France, Germany and Romania gave good signs. What makes kyiv most happy is to see how the rhetoric installed in some capitals about the need to reach an agreement with Russia as soon as possible is evaporating. French President Emmanuel Macron made it clear on Thursday that any negotiations with the Kremlin had to follow a Ukrainian victory; and that it is up to Zelenski and his team alone to judge when that victory was achieved.
In addition, the volume of military aid has increased in recent weeks. According to the monitoring carried out by the World Economic Institute of the University of Kiel (Germany), the United States and Germany are the countries that show a greater difference between the announcements and the effective shipments. But in absolute terms, the value of supplies from Washington is 10 times that of Berlin. That is why Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz is the favorite target of criticism from military officials in Ukraine, who accuse him of making empty promises.
“Every day we say that we need weapons quickly. Scholz talks about sending in his Leopard tanks, but nothing happens. The 5,000 helmets they promised us have not even arrived. Why do they keep talking if they don’t?” asks Mijaílo Samus, director of the thinktank Ukrainian New Geopolitics. “The weapons that the Spanish government promised us in Madrid have not arrived,” adds Zelenski’s adviser. Which countries drag their feet the most? “Better ask which countries don’t,” he replies with a smile. “Only neighbors like Poland or the Czech Republic are being quick,” Zovkva concludes.
US President Joe Biden announced this week a new shipment of war material to the invaded country worth 1,000 million dollars (960 million euros), the largest to date. Macron pledged on Thursday to send six Caesar self-propelled howitzers. And, in a surprise visit a day later, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the offer of training 10,000 soldiers on the table. The feeling in kyiv is that all this trickle of announcements do not finish materializing, or at least that they do not do so with the speed that the Ukrainians would like, be it for logistical, economic or political reasons.
The bottom line is that Putin’s armed forces far outnumber the Ukrainians by whatever measure is chosen. “We need to achieve a thousand artillery systems because Russia has 10,000. If we have hundreds of something, they have thousands. We have to fight against that,” says military expert Samus. “I am glad that Scholz has promised us his best air defense system, the IRIS-T, for October. The problem is that we do not know what will have become of us in October”, concludes the deputy Klympush-Tsintsadze.
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