Ukraine rushing new weapons from West to frontline to blunt Russian advances, says Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukraine rushing new weapons from West to frontline to blunt Russian advances, says Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukraine is seeking to rush new weapons from the West to the frontline to blunt Russian advances, says Volodymyr Zelensky.

He admitted that his country’s army is facing a “really difficult situation” in the east where Vladimir Putin has stepped up offensives.

In his latest address to the nation, Ukraine’s president said: “I held a meeting with the leadership of the Ukrainian Defence Forces: Commander-in-Chief Syrskyi, Chief of the General Staff Barhylevych, and Defence Minister Umerov.

“We discussed how to speed up the supply of weapons from our partners and how to act now, with the available forces and means, with the available weapons, to achieve the results we need.”

America recently agreed a £48 billion aid package for Ukraine despite hardline Republicans delaying the move by several months.

Britain is also sending a further £500 million of support for Kyiv.

Russia has sought to exploit Ukraine’s shortages of ammunition and manpower as the flow of western supplies since the outbreak of the war petered out, assembling large troop concentrations in the east as well as in the north and gaining an edge on the battlefield, Mr Zelensky said.

But the massive new US military aid package is coming, and it will turn the tide, he said at a news conference in Kyiv with visiting president of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola on Thursday.

“With an increase in the supply of weapons, we will be able to stop them in the east. As of now, they seized the initiative there,” Mr Zelensky explained.

Russia is pressing hard in parts of eastern Ukraine in an effort to drive deeper into the Donetsk province, which it partly occupies.

The Ukrainian army is on the back foot, scrambling to build fortified defensive lines, and engaged in intense combat.

Ukraine’s forces are outnumbered in infantry, armour and ammunition against Russia’s bigger army and are trying to limit the Kremlin’s forces to incremental gains.

“Russian forces have markedly increased the rate of ground attacks in eastern Ukraine over the past month, likely reflecting current battlefield conditions and the intent of the Russian military command to secure gains before the arrival of Western military aid to the frontlines,” said the Institute for the Study of War.

The Washington-based think tank added: “Ukrainian Khortytsia Group of Forces Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Nazar Voloshyn stated on May 9 that the number of combat engagements increased significantly from 84 on May 8 to 146 on May 9.

“He noted that most of the fighting occurred in the area of responsibility of the Khortytsia Group (the area from Kharkiv Oblast (province) down to the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area).”

As Ukraine has lost territory on the frontline, it has sought to hit Russia with drone strikes, which can fly increasingly long distances.

A Ukrainian brigade was recently deployed near Pokrovsk, a town of around 60,000 people before the war, to help stop the creeping Russian advance.

Pokrovsk was until recently a two-hour drive from the front line. Now it is less than half that.

Soldiers said the Russians usually shelled Ukrainian positions around dawn before sending in waves of small infantry units. The attackers seek to gain footholds and quickly dig in to consolidate their limited advance.

“They constantly try to breach our lines with their personnel... to get through somewhere, to crawl in, to hold any positions for at least a minute,” said one soldier.

“But we are trying to inflict fire damage while they are still approaching our positions. Once they reach our positions, our personnel inflict maximum damage on them with small arms fire.”

The Russian goal, according to Ukrainian intelligence, is to secure the battered small town of Ocheretyne and reach the main Pokrovsk-Kostiantynivka road, severing a key Ukrainian line of communication with other frontline towns.

Ocheretyne lies north-west of Avdiivka, a city whose capture opened a door for the Kremlin’s troops to push westwards, deeper into Donetsk. Russia annexed Donetsk and three other regions illegally in 2022 shortly after it invaded Ukraine, and taking control of all of Donetsk is one of the Kremlin’s main war goals.

After Avdiivka’s fall at the end of February, Russia took other local villages as the country’s army chief warned of a worsening battlefield situation.

Russian troops have stepped up their efforts to advance in areas near Ocheretyne, launching 45 ground attacks over the previous 24 hours, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Thursday. On most recent days, they have conducted 20-35 attacks a day.

Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine increased by 17 per cent from March to April, the UK Ministry of Defence in London said on Thursday.

Despite the attacking effort, the Kremlin’s forces have made only minor gains and sustained heavy losses, it added.

Meanwhile, Mr Zelensky formally appointed Ukraine’s former army chief, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the country’s ambassador to Britain. Mr Zelensky replaced Mr Zaluzhnyi in February in an apparent effort to give new momentum to Ukraine’s fight.