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‘Nonsense situation’: Zelensky says West ‘afraid’ of both Russian, Ukrainian defeat

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during an interview with AFP, May 17, 2024.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has denounced the West for its ban on using Western-donated arms to strike targets inside Russia, saying the West is “afraid” of both Russian and Ukrainian defeat.

In an interview with AFP on Friday, Zelensky launched a rare attack on Western countries for supplying Kiev with long-range arms but at the same time imposing a strict ban on using them to strike targets inside Russia.

“They can fire any weapons from their territory at ours. This is the biggest advantage that Russia has. We can’t do anything to their systems, which are located on the territory of Russia, with Western weapons,” he said in the interview which aired on Saturday.

Back in April, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that Washington had received guarantees from Kiev that it would only use the donated MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles inside the occupied territories of Ukraine, not inside Russia.

Zelensky strongly criticized the West for simultaneously supporting Ukraine and being “afraid” of any clear defeat for Russia.

“We are in a nonsense situation where the West is afraid that Russia will lose the war. And it does not want Ukraine to lose it,” he said.

“We want the war to end with a fair peace for us,” while “the West wants the war to end. Period. As soon as possible. And for them, this is a fair peace,” Zelensky further said.

Since late last year, Russia has been making gradual advances and has seen larger gains along the northeastern border in an offensive that began on May 10 in the Kharkiv region.

Suffering from manpower shortages, Kiev has just passed a mobilization law to boost the forces’ morale, according to a rare acknowledgment from Zelensky, as Ukrainian fighters are increasingly exhausted and angry at the lack of rotation.

“We need to staff the reserves... A large number of [brigades] are empty. We need to do this so that the guys have a normal rotation. Then their morale will be improved. It is a matter of their physical strength and justice. This requires that reserves be prepared,” the Ukrainian president further said.

Zelensky has repeatedly asked the West, particularly the US, for long-range missiles and advanced fighter jets to challenge Russia’s air superiority and compensate for failure on the ground.  

“I believe that today, we have about twenty-five percent of what we need to defend Ukraine. I’m talking about air defense. As for the aircraft, I say this openly, so that Russia does not have air superiority, our fleet should have 120 to 130 modern aircraft,” he added.

Ukraine has lost much of its air force, including the Soviet-era jets donated by several NATO members as replacements, and has consistently pursued the acquisition of F-16s from the US-led bloc.

Several countries, including Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands, have stepped forward to offer their support by donating F-16s. Additionally, a coalition of countries has pledged to assist in training Ukrainian pilots to effectively operate the advanced aircraft.

“In total, we need this fleet of F-16s in the number I am talking about in order to have parity,” Zelensky further said on Friday.

While Kiev has frequently been reminded not to use such weapons to hit targets inside Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin on March warned that any attempt to use F-16s against Russian troops from airfields in neighboring countries will not go unanswered, “no matter where they might be.”

Russia has repeatedly warned that the conflict in Ukraine could be prolonged due to the support of Western countries, on top of them the US, for Kiev. 

Back in February, Putin stressed that certain Western countries are risking triggering a nuclear war by deploying boots in eastern Ukraine, warning Moscow could strike Western targets.

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