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Without US military aid, Ukraine has to retreat, Zelensky warns

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after speaking to The Washington Post journalists on May 1, 2023, in Kyiv. (File photo by The Washington Post)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that if Ukraine fails to receive the US military aid promised but currently blocked due to Congressional disputes, it will be forced to retreat gradually.

In an interview with The Washington Post published, Zelensky presented a bold message to the US congress, asking it to hand over the weapons to stop the Russian attacks, or Ukraine will escalate its counterattacks on Russia’s airfields, energy facilities and other strategic targets.

The congressional delay in approving a $60 billion military aid package has been costly for Ukraine, Zelensky said.

“If there is no US support, it means that we have no air defense, no Patriot missiles, no jammers for electronic warfare, no 155-millimeter artillery rounds,” he said.

“It means we will go back, retreat, step by step, in small steps.”

Asked whether Ukraine was running short of interceptors and other air-defense weapons to protect its cities and infrastructure, Zelensky responded in the affirmative.

“That’s true. I don’t want Russia to know what number of air-defense missiles we have, but basically, you’re right. Without the support of Congress, we will have a big deficit of missiles. This is the problem. We are increasing our own air-defense systems, but it is not enough.”

President Joe Biden has called on the Republican-led US House of Representatives to support the military and financial aid package, however, House Speaker Mike Johnson has delayed the issue for several months, citing domestic concerns.

During their telephone conversation on Thursday, Zelensky emphasized to Johnson the crucial importance of approving the package.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also urged Congress to approve Biden’s National Security Supplemental in order to assist Ukraine against Russia.

In a rare interview published on Friday, Ukraine’s newly appointed commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrsky, revealed that Russian forces are overpowering Ukrainian troops on the frontlines, resulting in significant casualties and territorial setbacks.

“A few days ago, the enemy’s advantage in terms of ammunition fired was about six to one,” Syrsky told the Ukrinform news agency.

“The defense forces are now performing tasks along the entire vast frontline, with little or no weapons and ammunition,” he warned, saying the situation was “tense” in some areas.

Syrsky urged the US to provide Kiev with the long-stalled military aid package.

“We hope to receive from our partners more air defense systems and, most importantly, missiles,” Syrsky said.

“We would be even more grateful if this aid came faster and in sufficient quantities.”

The commander-in-chief stated that Ukraine would have definitely preserved the territory if it had possessed an ample amount of air defense systems and artillery shells.

“We have to admit that we were not able to achieve greater success during the Kharkiv offensive because we lacked resources,” Syrsky said.

Last year, Ukraine’s summer counter-offensive was unable to penetrate the robust defensive lines that Russia had established in the southern region.

“The assault on these positions, without effective air support, cost us human and equipment losses,” Syrsky said.

“The latest case is Avdiivka,” he added, referring to the frontline city near the eastern city of Donetsk, which Russia seized in February.

“Due to the constant bombardment with guided aerial bombs, the integrity of our defense was compromised,” Syrsky said.

“The lack of ammunition for our artillery also played a negative role. This made it impossible to conduct an effective counter-battery fight,” he added.

“To avoid encirclement and save lives, I decided to withdraw from Avdiivka.”

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