Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has promised that his forces will retake the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, despite warnings from other officials that Kiev will soon lose the Donbass region to Moscow without substantial military aid from the West.
The leader pledged to recapture the Russian controlled region in a video message on Monday, stating that “the Ukrainian flag will fly again over Yalta and Sudak, over Dzhankoy and Yevpatoriya” – all major cities on the peninsula.
“Of course, we will also liberate our Crimea,” he added.
Zelensky went on to say that Ukraine would also retake the Donbass region in the country’s east, where separatist forces have declared secession from the government in Kiev and are now fighting alongside Moscow. “Tell them the Ukrainian army will definitely come!” the president said, urging citizens to maintain contacts with those living in the area.
Despite Zelensky’s optimism, however, Ukrainian officials offered a far less promising assessment in comments to the Wall Street Journal, which noted that “without a broad and rapid increase in military assistance,” Kiev faces “defeat” in the Donbass.
An adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, Anton Gerashchenko, said “victory will be with the side that has more and better weapons,” and that if Western nations fail to supply sufficient arms, Ukraine “will bleed out.” The Journal reported that Moscow currently has 10 to 20 artillery pieces for every unit operated by Ukraine along the front lines and significantly more ammunition, as well as superiority in armor and air power.
Though Russia devoted more attention to Ukraine’s western half in the initial phase of its attack, it has since shifted focus to the Donbass, which it has also vowed to “liberate” from Ukrainian control on behalf of two separatist states in Donetsk and Lugansk. As of early June, Moscow held at least 20% of Ukraine – a figure acknowledged by Zelensky himself – much of it in the country’s east and south.
Washington alone has provided tens of billions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February, in addition to a wave of arms transfers from allies across Europe. Recent Pentagon shipments included long-range rocket systems capable of striking targets 50 miles away – well beyond the range of US-made artillery already provided – despite concerns the weapons would be used for attacks on Russian soil.
Still, officials in Kiev are demanding more from the US, with senior Zelensky aide Mykhailo Podolyak insisting on Monday that Ukraine needs “heavy weapons parity” in order to “end the war.” Toward that goal, he requested another 1,000 howitzers, 300 multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS), 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and 1,000 drones.