Zelensky gives dire warning as Ukrainian counter-offensive ‘slower than desired’

Volodymyr Zelensky talks about the attack on Kherson

President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday admitted the progress of the Ukrainian counter-offensive has been “slower than desired”.

But the country’s leader insisted the safety of his people was more important than the speedy, blockbuster-style ending some analysts might have been anticipating.

He said: “Some people believe this is a Hollywood movie and expect results now. It’s not. What is at stake is people’s lives.

“Whatever some might want, including attempts to pressure us, with all due respect, we will advance on the battlefield the way we deem best.”

Ukrainian forces have so far reclaimed eight villages in the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions, but are struggling to move swiftly through heavily-mined battlefields.

But the president said “victories on the battlefield are necessary” and vowed his forces will not stop fighting while Russian troops are in his country.

He said: “No matter how far we advance in our counter-offensive, we will not agree to a frozen conflict because that is war, that is a prospectless development for Ukraine”.

President Zelensky also urged Western leaders to help rebuild the country when he addressed the Ukrainian Recovery Conference in London via a big screen. And he reminded the world his people are fighting for freedom for everybody.

He said: “The eyes of the world are looking at us and whether we will defeat Russian aggression exactly as freedom deserves to win, that is without compromising our values.

“Also, the world is watching to see if we will restore normal life in such a way that our transformation will land an ideological defeat on the aggressor. We protect Ukraine, and thus we protect freedom. And when we build Ukraine, we’ll build freedom.”

Calling for extra international support, the president revealed Ukraine’s economy has shrunk by 29.2 per cent, with the World Bank earlier this year predicting it will cost £339billion to rebuild the country.

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But he said his country could be “the largest source of economic, industrial and technological growth in Europe for decades and decades”. And he highlighted Ukraine’s importance in global food supply and its potential to be a major green energy power.

Mr Zelensky, who is pushing for Ukraine to join Nato and the EU, also urged Western leaders to have “the courage” to recognise his country is already a key part of their economic and defence alliances.

Thousands of delegates are at the conference. Rishi Sunak yesterday lined up with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, Ukraine PM Denys Shmyhal, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Estonia’s President Alar Karis. The PM hailed the gathering a chance to “plant the seeds of Ukraine’s future”.

He said: “Before this terrible war, Ukraine’s economy was becoming a huge investment opportunity. It was the breadbasket of Europe, exporting millions of tonnes of food and grain each month, a top-five exporter of iron ore and steel, a leader in energy…and a start-up nation…with a thriving tech sector.”

The PM also announced a £2.35billion bank loan guarantee scheme to help rebuild Kyiv. No10 said it is the first package of bilateral multi-year fiscal assistance to be set out by a G7 country.

  • Senior MPs from all parties yesterday backed calls for the Foreign Office to do more to help Vladimir Kara-Murza – a British citizen jailed for 25 years in Russia for opposing the invasion of Ukraine.

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