Zelensky says foreign aid delay making war ‘very difficult’ as Putin vows to push further into Ukraine

By Isaac M February 21, 2024

Russia is being allowed to make significant advances in Ukraine because of delays in arms deliveries from Western nations, the besieged country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky warned.

Russia has captured the key strategic city of Avdiivka in recent days and has also amassed troops at several points along the 1,500km frontline, Mr Zelensky said in his nightly address late on Monday, adding that these forces are apparently aiming to pounce on any perceived defensive weaknesses among Ukrainian forces.

“The situation is extremely difficult in several parts of the frontline, where Russian troops have amassed maximum reserves. They are taking advantage of the delays in aid to Ukraine,” Mr Zelensky said in his address, calling the concerns “very tangible issues”.

He admitted Ukraine is facing a deficit of artillery. “There is a need for frontline air defence and for a longer range of our weapons,” the Ukrainian president said.

Ukraine gave up its hold on Avdiivka in Donetsk on Saturday as it pulled out troops who were at risk of being completely surrounded by Russian forces, and facing heavy artillery shelling attacks.

Vladimir Putin celebrated Russia’s capture of Avdiivka and said his troops will continue to attack the country to build on their battlefield victories in the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Avdiivka is Russia’s biggest battlefield success, though it has been highly costly, since the capture of Bakhmut by its private Wagner mercenaries in May 2023.

“As for the overall situation in Avdiivka, this is an absolute success, I congratulate you. It needs to be built on,” Mr Putin told his defence minister Sergei Shoigu in the Kremlin.

That development, he said, “must be well-prepared, provided with personnel, weapons, equipment and ammunition”.

“It seems to be self-evident, but nevertheless I draw your attention to it.”

Russia managed to capture the Ukrainian city after launching multiple attacks since October last year, and not only exhausted its heavy stockpiles of artillery shells in the process, but also lost 30,000 soldiers to death or injuries, according to Kyiv.

Lack of ammunition hampered Ukraine’s fight against Russian forces.

Avdiivka would not have fallen had Kyiv been given weapons by the US Congress which it had held up in a large aid package instead of clearing it, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said.

“We wouldn’t (have lost) Avdiivka if we had all the artillery ammunition that we needed to defend it. Russia does not intend to pause or withdraw… Once Avdiivka is under their control, they undoubtedly will choose another city and begin to storm it,” Mr Kuleba told CNN.

Ukrainian troops, he said, were “making miracles…but the reason they have to sacrifice themselves and die is that someone is still debating a decision. I want everyone to remember that every day of debate in one place means another death in another place”.

Mr Shoigu said his troops launched up to 460 strikes on Avdiivka every day, firing up to about 200 metric tons of explosives.

“We got the enemy in such a state that it was forced to flee the unbearable conditions,” he said.

The situation for Ukraine, however, is not catastrophic despite the critical ammunition supplies, said Oleksiy Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council.

“We fight and will continue to fight. We have only one request to our partners: to help with weapons, with ammunition, and with air defence.”

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