The Ukrainian counteroffensive hasn't been easy and is "happening probably slower" than some had hoped, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video released by his office on Tuesday.
His remarks from a meeting Sunday with Latin American media outlets come amid CNN reporting that Western officials describe increasingly “sobering” assessments about Ukrainian forces’ ability to retake significant territory.
"But all of this is secondary. In some places, there are mines, in some places there are technical difficulties, in some places we have been waiting for long. Or there are other complications. We can be discussing it for a long time," Zelensky said. "The direction of the counteroffensive, what's wrong with it, what we have enough of, what we lack."
"The counteroffensive is when the army is attacking and not when it is retreating. And this is an important and positive moment. And it is Ukraine that has the initiative. It is very difficult to be fighting for such a long time—which is obvious. All this is very difficult when you lack this or that equipment. I know it is difficult for us but I definitely know it is more difficult for the Russians," Zelensky added.
While there is fatigue in the eyes of Ukrainians, there is fear in Russians' eyes, the president added.
Some more context: The primary challenge for Ukrainian forces is the continued difficulty of breaking through Russia’s multi-layered defensive lines in the eastern and southern parts of the country, which are marked by tens of thousands of mines and vast networks of trenches. Ukrainian forces have incurred staggering losses there, leading Ukrainian commanders to hold back some units to regroup and reduce casualties.
“Russians have a number of defensive lines and they [Ukrainian forces] haven’t really gone through the first line,” a senior Western diplomat told CNN. “Even if they would keep on fighting for the next several weeks, if they haven’t been able to make more breakthroughs throughout these last seven, eight weeks, what is the likelihood that they will suddenly, with more depleted forces, make them? Because the conditions are so hard.”
A senior US official said the US recognizes the difficulties Ukrainian forces are facing, though retains hope for renewed progress.
Correction: An earlier version of the post listed the wrong date for Zelensky's remarks to Latin American media. The remarks were made on Sunday.