After giving the strongest indication yet that Ukraine’s counter-offensive is imminent, President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday urged his compatriots to personally thank the volunteers and soldiers who fought against Russian troops, as a sign of how grim could be the next phase of the war.
Mr. Zelensky mentioned more than a dozen soldiers by name, noting that in his late-night speeches he usually thanked specific units or brigades. But Saturday’s speech, he said, was a collection of “more personal words of gratitude to certain warriors.”
His plea to thank soldiers, if only on social media, followed similar statements from his top military commanders, who said they were ready for the counter-offensive despite a lack of air defense systems. And his defense minister rejected peace talks at a summit of military officials in Singapore on Saturday. Ukraine has also become bolder, attacking behind Russian lines in recent months, another sign of the war’s changing tone.
Earlier on Saturday, The Wall Street Journal published an interview with Mr Zelensky in which he said Ukraine was ready for the counter-offensive but warned that “a large number of soldiers will die” as Russia maintains the upper hand in the air force. In addition to the billions of dollars in military aid and advanced weapons that Ukraine has already received from the United States and Europe, Mr. Zelensky is pressuring his allies for more air defense systems and F-16 fighter jets.
And Ukraine continues to reject proposals for peace talks without Russia withdrawing its troops from occupied territories first. The latest proposal was made on Saturday by Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s defense minister, at the international meeting in Singapore.
Mr Zelensky’s remarks were published a week after Ukraine’s top military commander signaled that the counter-offensive was about to begin, which analysts said may have already begun in some form. It is likely centered in southern Ukraine and focused on land routes between Russia and Crimea, the Ukrainian territory Moscow illegally annexed in 2014.
“There is no perfect time to launch the Ukrainian offensives, but there will be a time that is optimal for the preparations of the Ukrainian armed forces and when they are most able to exploit Russian weaknesses,” said Mick Ryan, a military analyst and retired Australian general. wrote Sunday on Twitter. “That time is near.”