Russia presses its offensive in Ukraine and issues new threats as the West tries to blunt the push

Slowly but steadily this summer, Russian troops are forging through Ukraine‘s outgunned and undermanned defenses in a relentless onslaught, prompting the West to push for new weapons and strategies to shore up Kyiv.

That, in turn, has brought new threats by President Vladimir Putin to retaliate against the West — either directly or indirectly.

The moves by the West to blunt the offensive and the potential Kremlin response could lead to a dangerous escalation as the war drags through its third year — one that further raises the peril of a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.

Probing offensive

Russia took advantage of its edge in firepower amid delays in U.S. aid to scale up attacks in several areas along the 1,000-km front. Relatively small units are probing Ukrainian defenses for weak spots, potentially setting the stage for a more ambitious push.

Russia’s offensive near Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, that began in May and worried Kyiv’s Western allies has apparently lost momentum after the Ukrainian army bolstered its forces in the area by redeploying troops from other sectors.

Meanwhile, Russia has made incremental but steady advances in the Donetsk region, including around the strategic hilltop town of Chasiv Yar, a gateway to parts of Donetsk still under Ukrainian control. Analysts say the fall of Chasiv Yar would threaten the key military hubs of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

Putin declared that Moscow wasn’t seeking quick gains and would stick to the current strategy of advancing slowly.

Jack Watling of the Royal United Services Institute said that by stretching Ukrainian forces along a wide front, Russia is overcoming the limitations of its military that lacks the size and training for a major offensive.

The breadth of the strikes has forced Ukraine to spread out its artillery, “expending munitions to break up successive Russian attacks,” he said in an analysis. “Russia’s aim is not to achieve a grand breakthrough but rather to convince Ukraine that it can keep up an inexorable advance, kilometer by kilometer, along the front.” Michael Kofman of the Carnegie Endowment said Russia’s apparent goal is to maintain pressure and try to stretch out Ukraine’s forces. He noted that even though Ukraine managed to stabilize the front line, it had to use reserves intended to be deployed elsewhere.

“It will take more and more time to actually regenerate Ukraine’s combat strength because of that,” he said in a recent podcast.

Moscow also has stepped up airstrikes on Ukraine’s energy facilities and other vital infrastructure with waves of missiles and drones. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the country had lost about 80% of its thermal power and one-third of its hydroelectric power in the strikes.

“This will be a growing problem when we talk about the future Ukraine’s economic viability,” Kofman said.

Watling said the shortage of air defenses is giving Ukraine a difficult choice between concentrating them to safeguard critical infrastructure, or protecting troops on the front.

“The persistence of Russia’s long-range strike campaign means that not only is the front being stretched laterally, but it is also being extended in its depth,” he said.

The West responds, the Kremlin counters

Washington and some NATO allies have responded to the offensive by allowing Kyiv to use Western weapons for limited strikes inside Russia. The U.S. has allowed Ukraine to use American weapons against military targets in Russia near Kharkiv and elsewhere near the border, but, to Kyiv’s dismay, Washington so far hasn’t given permission for strikes deeper in Russia.

French President Emmanuel Macron and some other Western officials argue that Kyiv has the right to use their equipment to attack military assets anywhere in Russia. There also has been talk by Macron and the leaders of NATO’s Baltic members — but not the U.S. — of deploying troops to Ukraine.

Putin warns that this would be a major escalation, and he threatened to retaliate by providing weapons to Western adversaries elsewhere in the world.

He reinforced that argument by signing a mutual defense pact with North Korea in June and holding the door open for arms supplies to Pyongyang.

He declared that just as the West says Ukraine can decide how to use Western weapons, Moscow could provide arms to North Korea and “similarly say that we supply something to somebody but have no control over what happens afterward” — an apparent hint at Pyongyang’s role as arms trader.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, noted Moscow could arm anyone who considers the U.S. and its allies their enemies, “regardless of their political beliefs and international recognition.” Another threat of escalation followed a Ukrainian attack with U.S.-made ATACMS missiles that killed four and injured over 150 in Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. Russia’s Defense Ministry warned it could take unspecified measures against U.S. drones over the Black Sea that provide intelligence to Ukraine.

The nuclear threat and Putin’s long game. Putin said it was wrong for NATO to assume that Russia won’t use its nuclear arsenal, reaffirming it will use “all means” if its sovereignty and territorial integrity are threatened.

He also warned that Moscow was pondering possible changes to its doctrine that specifies when it resorts to nuclear weapons.

Underscoring that, Russia held military drills with battlefield nuclear weapons involving Belarus. Last year, Moscow deployed some of those weapons to Belarus to try to discourage Western military support for Ukraine.

A military defeat in Ukraine, Putin said, would deal a deadly blow to Russian statehood, and he vowed to press his goals “to the end.”

He declared that for Russia to halt the fighting, Ukraine must withdraw its troops from the four regions that Moscow annexed in 2022, an idea Kyiv and its allies dismissed. He also said Ukraine must abandon its bid to join NATO.

Hawkish Russian commentators criticized Putin for failing to respond forcefully to NATO ramping up support for Kyiv and allowing the West to continuously push back Russia’s red lines. Some argued that if the damage grows from Ukrainian strikes deep inside Russia with longer-range Western missiles, Moscow should hit NATO assets.

Vasily Kashin, a Moscow-based defense analyst, noted that while Ukraine already had used Western weapons to inflict limited damage, Putin will “have to do something if there are cruise missile strikes deep inside Russian territory resulting in significant casualties.” Russia could respond by targeting Western drones or U.S. spy satellites, or also strike some NATO countries’ assets in overseas territories to minimize triggering an all-out conflict with the alliance, Kashin said.

Other Russian commentators argued, however, that such action fraught with triggering a direct conflict with NATO isn’t in Moscow’s interests.

Moscow-based security analyst Sergei Poletaev said the Kremlin aims to steadily drain Ukrainian resources to force Kyiv into accepting a peace deal on Russia’s terms.

While nothing spectacular is happening on the front line, he said, “constant dropping wears away a stone.”

Moscow’s military advantage allows it to “maintain pressure along the entire front line and make new advances while waiting for Ukraine to break down,” he said in a commentary Lacking the resources for a major offensive, the Kremlin has opted for slow advances, aiming to “keep pressure on Ukraine while warding off the West from direct involvement in hostilities,” Poletaev said.

“We must walk the razor’s edge between our victory and a nuclear war,” he said.

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Ukraine gets more military aid from Europe but Putin warns of consequences if Russian soil is hit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (left) and Portuguese Prime Minister Luis Montenegro (right) shake hands following the signing of bilateral agreements, at the Sao Bento Palace, the premier’s official residence in Lisbon on May 28, 2024.
| Photo Credit: AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a second $1 billion promise of military aid in as many days on May 28 during a whirlwind tour of three European Union countries, while President Vladimir Putin warned that hitting Russian soil with Western-supplied weapons could set the war on a dangerous new path.

The aid pledge for 2024 came from Belgium, which topped up the money with a commitment to give Ukraine 30 F-16 fighter jets in the next four years.

“Our task is to use the first F-16 on the battlefield this year and in such way fortify our positions,” Mr. Zelenskyy said.

He later traveled to Portugal, where he said it was important that Ukraine’s supporters don’t allow themselves to be misled by Russia and that “we don’t grow tired of the war.”

The onslaught by the Kremlin’s better-equipped forces that is unfolding in eastern and northeastern Ukraine as summer approaches has brought Ukraine its biggest military test since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

Slow deliveries of support by its Western partners, especially a lengthy delay in U.S. military aid, have left Ukraine at the mercy of Russia’s bigger army and air force.

European countries have been discussing the possibility of deploying troops to Ukraine in support roles, while talk of giving seized Russian assets to Ukraine has further angered Moscow.

Mr. Putin has repeatedly warned the West against deeper involvement in the fighting, holding out the specter of a nuclear conflict.

The use of Western-supplied long-range weapons by Ukraine to strike Russian territory could bring a dangerous escalation, Mr. Putin said on May 28, speaking to reporters while on a trip to Uzbekistan.

The use of such weapons would rely on Western intelligence data and imply the involvement of NATO military personnel, Mr. Putin said, warning the alliance that they should be aware of the possible consequences.

“Representatives of countries that are NATO members, particularly in Europe, should be aware of what they are playing with,” he said, adding that “countries with small territory and dense populations” should be particularly careful.

The Netherlands promised to quickly assemble with key E.U. partners a Patriot air defense system, which Mr. Zelenskyy sees as key in stopping Russia from hitting Ukraine’s power grid and civilian areas, as well as military targets, with devastating glide bombs.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the move but insisted much more work was needed.

“We have seen some progress, but more progress and more air defense systems are urgently needed in Ukraine,” Mr. Stoltenberg said as he headed into a meeting of E.U. Defence Ministers.

Before returning to Ukraine, Mr. Zelenskyy visited Portugal and signed another bilateral agreement. Portugal is one of Western Europe’s poorest countries and has a small military compared with its bigger E.U. partners. Portuguese Prime Minister Luis Montenegro said Portugal is sending a further 126 million euros ($137 million) in military and financial aid to Kyiv as part of a broad cooperation plan.

On May 27, Mr. Zelenskyy signed a security agreement with Spain that allocates 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) of military aid to Ukraine in 2024, and 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) by 2027.

The bilateral aid is essential since the 27-nation bloc is again struggling to overcome Hungary’s objections to the E.U. itself providing billions of euros in military aid to Kyiv.

An estimated 6.5 billion euros ($7 billion) are stalled by the Hungarian government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, considered Russia’s staunchest ally in the E.U. Single member states have wide veto powers, and Hungary has long held up funds aimed at boosting Ukraine’s defenses.

“That’s the sad thing that we have the cash, we have the capacity, but we are still pending decisions to implement” aid decisions for Ukraine, said E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Mr. Zelenskyy met with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, and as well as the immediate money, he obtained a security agreement aimed at providing guarantees of military help until Ukraine joins NATO.

Since Russia launched a spring offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region, Mr. Zelenskyy has insisted Ukraine urgently needs seven more U.S.-made Patriot air defence systems.

Mr. Putin says the Kremlin’s forces are seeking to establish a “buffer zone” in Kharkiv to prevent Ukraine launching attacks across the border there.

Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren, meeting with her E.U. colleagues, said a Patriot system will be built “in a short time frame.” The Netherlands has the core components for a Patriot system and other E.U. nations will contribute other key parts and munitions.

“Ukraine is also fighting Europe’s fight,” she said.

Mr. Zelenskyy was to visit Belgium and Spain earlier this month but postponed all his foreign trips after Russia launched its Kharkiv offensive and left Ukrainian forces reeling.

In other developments, the U.N.’s atomic agency’s chief was in Russia’s westernmost territory of Kaliningrad to talk about safety issues involving the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine.

The plant has been occupied by the Russian forces since early in the war, and all of its reactors have been in a cold shutdown. Frequent shelling around Europe’s largest nuclear plant has raised global concerns over nuclear security.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi met with Alexei Likhachyov, head of Russia’s state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom. The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Mr. Grossi as saying that “common understanding” has been reached on the steps that are necessary to enhance the plant’s security, but restarting it “seems impossible” at the moment.

Mr. Likhachyov echoed his sentiment on restarting the plant, but also vowed its current state is “absolutely safe.”

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Valerii Zaluzhnyi | Fall of the ‘Iron General’

When Valerii Zaluzhnyi was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Force of Ukraine in July 2021, there was uncertainty on whether the crisis in the eastern Donbas region, where a civil war was raging between Russia-backed separatists and Kyiv’s troops, would escalate into a full-blown war. U.S. intelligence had warned Kyiv that the Russians were planning an invasion. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the comedian-turned-politician who was elected President of Ukraine in April 2019, was sceptical. But Gen. Zaluzhnyi was not ready to take a chance. “There was the smell of war in the air,” he recalled those days in an interview later. And his job was to prepare his troops, who lost Crimea in 2014 without even a fight, for the coming big war.

Seven months after Gen. Zaluzhnyi, who cut his teeth as a top commander in Donbas, took over as the Commander-in-Chief, President Vladimir Putin of Russia launched his ‘special military operation’. In the run-up to the war, many of its allies, including the U.S., thought that Ukraine’s troops would fold before the mighty Russians, and relocated their embassies from Kyiv to the western city of Lviv, on the Polish border. But not Gen. Zaluzhnyi. “For me, the war started in 2014 (when Russia annexed Crimea). I did not run away then, I am not going to run away now,” he told the Americans in February 2022. Russia made some territorial gains in the initial days of the war, but the Ukrainian defence did not crumble as many had expected.

Russian troops were stopped in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson. This allowed Ukraine’s Western partners to reassess their strategies and start sending supplies to Ukrainian troops to counter-attack Russia. Gen. Zaluzhnyi’s popularity rose. While Mr. Zelenskyy emerged as the face of Ukraine’s war abroad, Gen. Zaluzhnyi became a national hero. ‘The Iron General’, memes celebrated his popularity on social networks. ‘Ukraine could win this war,’ wrote pundits. The President “allows his Generals to run the show without direct interferences into military business”, a former Minister said, referring to the bonhomie between Mr. Zelenskyy and Gen. Zaluzhnyi. But none of these lasted long.

On February 8, weeks before the second anniversary of the Russian invasion, Mr. Zelenskyy sacked Gen. Zaluzhnyi as the Commander-in-Chief at a time when the Ukrainian forces were struggling to defend the frontline that stretches from Kharkhiv in the northeast to Kherson in the south. The President had earlier asked the General to step down as part of an attempt to “reorganise” the armed forces, but the latter refused. Then came the dismissal. Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskiy is the new boss.

The rise

Born in 1973 into a military family in northern Ukraine, which was then part of the Soviet Union, Valerii Zaluzhnyi grew up during the Brezhnev era. He wanted to be a comedian, the profession Mr. Zelenskyy came from, but ended up joining the forces, following in the footsteps of his family members. He studied at the Institute of Land Forces of the Odesa Military Academy and the National Defence Academy in Kyiv. When the Russians took Crimea in 2014, Zaluzhnyi was a 41-year-old officer, who, like many other Ukrainian soldiers, felt humiliated and helpless by the loss of the Black Sea Peninsula. He was sent to the east to command units that were fighting the separatists and the “little green men”, who were believed to have been dispatched by the Russians.

When Mr. Zelenskyy became President in 2019, the situation in the east had become worse. Parts of the Donbas region were now two self-proclaimed Republics. The Minsk II agreement required Kyiv to introduce structural and constitutional reforms to guarantee autonomy to the eastern Oblasts in return for peace. The Russian threat was real and looming.

Instead of implementing the Minsk agreements, Mr. Zelenskyy chose to deepen Ukraine’s cooperation with the West and strengthen its armed forces. He wanted young blood for the latter. In 2021, he zeroed in on Gen. Zaluzhnyi. “He is a fair professional and a smart person,” Andrii Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said about the selection of Gen. Zaluzhnyi. “I said this to the President. The final call was made by him.” And Gen. Zaluzhnyi’s job was to keep his troops ready. “Our task as the Armed Forces is not to wait for manna from heaven. We must prepare for this. And we do everything for this,” he said.

He reorganised the armed forces, strengthening the autonomy of mid-level officers so that battlefield decisions can be made quickly instead of waiting for orders from headquarters like the Soviet days. He conducted military exercises to keep the forces combat-ready. He deepened defence cooperation with the U.S., the U.K. and other NATO countries. For someone who has “read everything [Valery] Gerasimov ever wrote”, the enemy is not a pushover. “I learnt the science of war from Gerasimov,” he once said, referring to the Chief of the General Staff of Russia. And now, he was preparing to fight Gen. Gerasimov.

The war

His tactics were initially effective. Russian forces were stopped in the early stage of the invasion. Later in 2022, the Ukrainians mobilised troops in the south, triggering speculations that they were planning a counter-attack in Kherson. Then, they launched the attack in Kharkiv, in the northeast, recapturing swathes of territory. Before the Russians recovered from this setback, Ukraine launched another attack in the south, forcing the enemy to retreat from Kherson city to the east bank of the Dnieper River. That is when Gen. Zaluzhnyi peaked. “Zaluzhnyi has emerged as the military mind his country needed,” General Mark Milley, the former Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff of the U.S., once said. “His leadership enabled the Ukrainian armed forces to adapt quickly with battlefield initiative against the Russians.” But the Russians also learnt from their battlefield experiences and adapted to the new realities.

By the time Ukraine launched the much-anticipated counteroffensive in June 2023, the Russians were in a stronger position. Mr. Putin had already mobilised some 3,00,000 troops and changed his commander. Russia’s military production had recovered from the early effects of the sanctions. They were ready to fight a long war, while Ukraine, which was almost entirely dependent on supplies from the West, wanted quick results.

The exit

The counteroffensive turned out to be counterproductive. Ukraine made no substantial territorial gains in months-long fighting, while they also suffered huge losses. In November 2023, Gen. Zaluzhnyi wrote an essay in The Economist, in which he said the war was entering “a new phase of static and attritional fighting, as in the First World War”, which “will benefit Russia”. He also asked Mr. Zelenskyy to mobilise 5,00,000 men for fighting. Reports started surfacing about the growing divide between the President and the Commander, which culminated in the latter’s sacking.

“We will fight until the last drop of blood,” Gen. Zaluzhnyi once said about the war. However, as the war is set to enter the third year, perhaps the most difficult phase for Ukraine with losses on the frontline, an enemy that is on the offensive and uncertainty about fresh aid from the U.S., the “Iron General” is no longer in the war.

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Will Zelenskyy’s four-star general become his main political opponent?

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

The Zelenskyy-Zaluzhnyi beef is a reminder that the essence of politics lies in disagreement or divergence of group interests — especially when those interests involve the survival of the nation and its people, Aleksandar Đokić writes.

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As the war in Ukraine nears the two-year mark, global attention has radically shifted away from Russia’s ongoing act of aggression. Battlefield reports have become scarce, and the continued humanitarian crisis affecting tens of millions of Ukrainians barely makes the news any more.

Yet, the most recent bombshell out of Kyiv alleging a behind-the-scenes dispute between President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and army commander-in-chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi brought Ukraine to the headlines of the media around the world once more. 

Rumours of Zaluzhnyi’s imminent dismissal as a consequence of an ever-widening rift between two key figures in wartime Ukraine of today are said to be tied to the fact that Zaluzhnyi — seen by many as a level-headed realist — has become increasingly more popular among Ukrainians than Zelenskyy himself.

While the Ukrainian president dismissed this as “not true”, fears over Zaluzhnyi’s rise in popularity in domestic politics would serve to prove that, while a nation’s unity in times of war might be strong, concord in politics tends to be very short-lived.

And if anything, the Zelenskyy-Zaluzhnyi beef is a reminder that the essence of politics lies in disagreement or divergence of group interests — especially when those interests involve the survival of the nation and its people.

What unites a country?

In fact, history has shown that the unity of the people and various political options is an unnatural state in the realm of politics. 

This coming together of an entire society is usually either a product of tyranny from within — where unity represents merely a false image of itself, as in the case of Vladimir Putin’s Russia — or forced from the outside by aggressive foreign powers threatening the sole existence of a nation. 

Going a mere decade back, Ukrainian society was, like any other, divided between conflicting interests of various groups, represented by political parties, with a meddling oligarchic element to boot. 

However, Ukrainians already had a unifying incentive, that many societies luckily don’t have — an increasingly aggressive and revanchist great power at its doorstep, attempting to capture Ukraine’s territory and reconfigure its national identity. 

The Ukrainian political class didn’t only face the cumbersome task of building democratic institutions and curbing oligarchic influence over the political sphere. It also had to do so while dealing with the military aggression of its now resurgent former imperial master. 

Enter Zelenskyy

Fast forward to the last presidential electoral cycle in Ukraine in 2019: the current president of the country, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, achieved a unifying effect never seen before in contemporary Ukrainian politics. 

In the runoff, he got both the west and the east of the country to support him, while replacing a string of oligarchs who preceded him, including Petro Poroshenko and Viktor Yanukovich.

Russia’s total war against Ukraine in 2022 changed the political landscape of both countries. 

Moscow slid into totalitarianism, while in Ukraine, the vast majority of the nation rallied around President Zelenskyy, a political figure only a few considered to be as resilient as he turned out to be. 

Zelenskyy, a man of charisma and a politician who understood how to appropriately communicate with a wide audience, helped the Ukrainian people beat back the main onslaught of Russian troops. 

Western aid, in terms of armaments and finances, came later. It was Zelenskyy’s voice, his presence, that instilled hope in the hearts of Ukrainians around the world. 

Even those who mocked him and thought he was incapable of holding the highest political office, came to respect his actions when they were needed the most, and Zelenskyy went on to become a globally recognised leader of a nation embroiled in a David vs Goliath-esque contest.

The nature of politics inevitably rears its head

However, after nearly two years of bloody war, the frontlines barely moving, and new wars and crises arising elsewhere, Ukraine lost its leading place in the world news reports. Zelenskyy’s aplomb just wasn’t enough any more. 

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Internally, the nature of politics began to show itself. By mid-2023, it was already clear that Zelenskyy would be facing renewed opposition. 

His controversial former advisor Oleksiy Arestovych immediately presented himself as a promising potential leader of the “stalemate” or “sober” party — claiming to be the actual realist in the room. 

He alone, nonetheless, didn’t stand much chance against Zelenskyy, having switched too many political camps in his career, and it became evident that not many of those who were a part of the pre-war opposition would back him. 

With Zelenskyy at the helm of the determined resistance strain of Ukrainian politics, then who could be the face of the stalemate party, without him or her being labelled a defeatist or, even worse, Putin’s agent? 

The answer to that question was clear to the opposition veterans from the start — four-star general Valerii Zaluzhnyi definitely fits the bill. 

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Will the four-star general stand and be counted?

The general, already a war hero, is surely a strong-willed and determined individual, marked by the makings of a Macarthurian type of character. And more importantly, he has the overwhelming trust of the Ukrainian people on his side.

A December 2023 poll by the Kyiv Institute of Sociology showed that 88% of Ukrainians supported Zaluzhnyi, while Zelenskyy’s approval rating hovered at around 62%.

The same poll demonstrated that while the absolute majority of Ukrainians also do not favour the option of peace in lieu of giving up a part of their country’s territory — 74% are against it — a growing number of people now see the stalemate as a possibility, with 19% ready to accept it (up from 14% in October and 10% in May).

Zaluzhnyi’s words in a now-infamous interview in November 2023, where he expressed his reservation that Ukraine might be stuck in a long and costly war, have stung the ever-persistent Zelenskyy just as much as they have made the possible pact with the devil seem slightly more acceptable than the continued devastation of Ukraine.

At the same time, his outspoken and direct takes also piqued the interest of the nearly-inert Ukrainian opposition, already significantly weakened after the 2019 elections and following February 2022, when it lost almost all of its appeal. 

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Yet, the passage of time and lack of progress on the battlefield has made them once again engage in a political match against Zelenskyy, as can be gleaned from those from the Verkhovna Rada issuing accusatory statements aimed at him while supporting Zaluzhnyi to the Western press these days. 

All they need now is a respectable leader to stand and be counted.

Aleksandar Đokić is a Serbian political scientist and analyst with bylines in Novaya Gazeta. He was formerly a lecturer at RUDN University in Moscow.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Disability rights in Ukraine are a litmus test for democracy

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

When Ukraine emerges from conflict, the country has the promise to rebuild itself as a model for a free, fair, and inclusive society. Ensuring that the rights of people with disabilities are respected will be a major test of how well it succeeds, Virginia Atkinson and Yuliia Sachuk write.

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Air raid sirens blare across Ukraine every day. The sound signals what has become a part of Ukrainians’ daily routine: run down the steps to the basement, shelter in place, and, as millions have, trek miles to shelter or to flee.

But for those with disabilities who can’t hear those signals, who can’t access bomb shelters, who can’t make it across the border or to a shelter — they continue to be left behind.

One woman’s family — all of whom are blind — never knew where the entrance to their apartment building’s basement was. 

When the building owner told residents to shelter there, they were dismissed when they asked for directions. 

This is just one scenario where people with disabilities could not access a shelter. In 2023, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry found that nearly 900 over 4,800 shelters were locked or in a state of disrepair; a majority of the remaining shelters are inaccessible to people with disabilities.

This past week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promoted a Ukrainian peace plan, urging his allies to remain committed to Ukraine “to build, to reconstruct, to restore our lives.” 

As towns in Ukraine rebuild at this very moment, it is important to recognise that for people with disabilities, a one-size-fits-all playbook to survive and recover from the war does not exist. 

When Ukraine emerges victorious, to thrive as an inclusive democracy, it must prioritise those being left behind right now.

Russia’s full-scale invasion made matters dire

Making the country work for its increased population of people with disabilities must not wait for the end of hostilities.

Around 2.7 million Ukrainians have disabilities, estimated by the State Statistics Service, though due to stigma and discrimination against self-identifying, this number is under-reported; a 2020 survey by Ukrainian disability rights NGO Fight for Right and the Kyiv International Institution of Sociology found that 16.8% of Ukrainians have a disability, a number that is rising daily during the conflict. 

Before the full-scale invasion, Ukraine began to reform its social services to promote independence and a more rights-based approach to disability. 

In 2021, the government adopted the Strategy for Barrier-Free Society, focusing on “empowering persons with disabilities to fully participate in society and ensure they can enjoy their fundamental rights.”

But when Russia went on a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, those efforts came to a screeching halt. 

Information disseminated to the public included crucial information, like curfews, where to seek shelter, and guidance on martial law. 

Oleksandr, a man with a visual disability, couldn’t find out where to buy bread during the first months of the invasion, with information largely being inaccessible due to a lack of resources in sign language, large fonts, or audio or visual formats.

As people evacuated, some left behind loved ones who were older or had a disability. According to an Amnesty International report, 4,000 older Ukrainians with disabilities have been forced into state institutions. 

As the Washington Post writes in a sobering report about internally displaced Ukrainians with disabilities, many of these institutions are in remote areas and violate international standards on access to independent decision-making for people with disabilities.

Children with disabilities are falling behind in their school lessons, with little to no support provided to families of children with disabilities.

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Even getting to the border is not a guarantee of being allowed to cross. According to Fight for Right’s estimates, thousands of men with disabilities have been refused passage across the border. 

The provisions of conscription state that persons with disabilities are not subject to conscription, but border guards are not sensitised to disability and often send men with disabilities away without any information on what documentation they need to cross.

International actors’ help needed

The challenges facing people with disabilities during the war point to the challenges that Ukraine will reckon with during reconstruction. 

The number of people with disabilities has already skyrocketed throughout the war, many of whom are wounded soldiers. As a recent AP report outlines, wounded veterans need to be given resources to independently navigate the world.

For many soldiers, children, and adults — wounded and non-wounded alike — the trauma of seeing these atrocities will undoubtedly impact their mental and emotional health for the rest of their lives.

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For Ukraine to thrive as an inclusive democracy, international actors need to prioritise identifying solutions to these issues. 

The upcoming Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin provides an opportunity to focus attention on ensuring people with disabilities are meaningfully involved in Ukraine’s recovery and reform.

Buildings should be rebuilt in an accessible manner, institutions should be abandoned in favour of strategies for people with disabilities to live independently in the community, new laws and policies developed as part of the EU accession process should align with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the elections held when martial law is lifted should be accessible to voters with disabilities.

Many of the accommodations that can be applied are ones that we already use in our everyday lives, whether it be voice-to-text software on our phones or ramps that make buildings more accessible to people with physical disabilities or for parents with young children.

Democracy is at stake

We at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and Fight for Right are committed to doing our part. 

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Ahead of the 2020 local elections in Ukraine, the IFES team supported the Central Election Commission and organisations of persons with disabilities to design a QR code that allowed people with a smartphone to consume written content in Ukrainian sign language and audio format. 

This voter education dissemination method was recognised with an Innovative Practice Award from the Zero Project at the UN in Vienna. The same can be done for any other piece of what could be life-saving information. 

As Ukraine returns to ordinary democratic life, we will continue to work with Ukrainian partners to ensure that these standards are reflected in elections and that all Ukrainians have access to participate in the political process.

The global community has recognised, since the start of the full-scale invasion, that what is at stake is democracy. 

When Ukraine emerges from conflict, the country has the promise to rebuild itself as a model for a free, fair, and inclusive society. 

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Ensuring that the rights of people with disabilities are respected will be a litmus test of how well it succeeds.

Virginia Atkinson serves as Global Inclusion Adviser at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, and Yuliia Sachuk is Head of the Ukrainian Fight for Right NGO.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Ukraine needs a government of national unity

Adrian Karatnycky, a senior fellow of the Atlantic Council and the author of the forthcoming book, “Battleground Ukraine: From Independence to the War with Russia” (Yale University Press).

In recent weeks, discourse about the war with Russia has turned deeply pessimistic in Ukraine.

A difficult Ukrainian counter-offensive, with lesser results than anticipated, has fueled deeply dark discussions about a deadlocked and bloody long-term war with Russia. Meanwhile, analysts and politicians have started to snipe at Ukraine’s military and political leaders, blaming them for the war effort’s failure and even speculating about defeat.

Further feeding this atmosphere of pessimism is evidence of tension between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the country’s military command, as well as delays in military aid from the United States. And these pressures now need to be addressed.

Clearly, the period of euphoria propelled by major Ukrainian military victories and territorial advances is over. So, too, is the period of grandiose promises by Ukrainian officials.

Last winter, an official spokesman for the president had proclaimed he expected to spend the next summer in Crimea. No less extravagant a promise was echoed by the head of military intelligence, who predicted Crimea would be liberated within six months, bringing official promises of a major spring counter-offensive with significant territorial gains along with it.

Early battlefield success also contributed to near universal approval for Zelenskyy among Ukrainians. Despite slow Russian advances in the Donbas and scant Ukrainian victories later on, happy talk on the state-dominated TV “marathon” — joint programming produced by the bulk of the country’s main television networks — continued to promote frontline success, helping Zelenskyy maintain his popularity.

All this changed, however, when Ukraine’s 2023 counter-offensive stalled. The massive loss of fighters amid meagre gains and a slow-moving positional war eroded public trust in the president and his team for the first time since the war began.

A subsequent mid-November poll gave Zelenskyy a trust rating of only net 32 percent plus — meaning two-thirds of Ukrainians trusted the president, while a third now did not. This was a steep decline from polls earlier in the year, and far below the trust ratings of the armed forces and their commander, General Valery Zaluzhny.

A later poll conducted for the President’s Office and leaked to the Ukrainska Pravda news site showed Zelenskyy was neck and neck with Zaluzhny in a hypothetical race for president. Moreover, Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party — which currently holds over two-thirds of the seats in parliament — would see its presence shrink dramatically if elections were held today.

And as Zelenskyy’s support weakens, Ukraine now faces a number of challenges and difficult decisions. These include a deadlock on the front, a rapidly depleting supply of munitions, some erosion of support from Europe, and an impasse in the U.S. Congress over a bill to provide for the military needs of both Ukraine and Israel. His star power notwithstanding, Zelenskyy faces new difficulties in maintaining high levels of military and financial support for Ukraine both in North America and in Europe.

Additionally, the ranks of Ukraine’s armed forces — initially populated by experienced military professionals with combat experience and highly motivated volunteers — have suffered mass casualties during these brutal two years of war. Аs a result, military recruiters — now called “people snatchers” — are scouring cities and villages in search of males aged 18 to 60 for military service. Sometimes, these recruiters are not merely using coercive tactics against draft dodgers but detaining and pressuring those not called or exempt from service into signing on. And such tactics are contributing to justifiable public anger toward the authorities

In addition to such unpopular tactics, Zelenskyy will soon likely need to need to dramatically widen the national military mobilization and shift social spending toward military expenditures, if only to hedge against any decline in, or interruption of, financing from key allies. Both moves will be highly unpopular.

All this doesn’t mean Russia will prevail. Indeed, Ukraine has basically fought Russia to a standstill. Taking minor territorial losses in the Donbas, while gaining modest territory in the south and forcing Russia’s navy to the eastern reaches of the Black Sea, it has effectively restored freedom of navigation for commercial vessels in the sea’s west.

Zelenskyy has also been a courageous and successful wartime leader. But much of this was dependent on steadfast public support. Near-universal domestic approval gave him political carte blanche to shape policy and strategy. But while Ukrainians remain united in their aim of defending the country, unqualified support for Zelenskyy and his policies is declining. And the embattled democracy is subsequently witnessing a revival in national politics.

Zelenskyy’s team itself has contributed to this politicization. After Zaluzhny soberly spoke about the difficulties of Ukraine’s war effort, while providing a road map that could ensure victory, his public comments were shot down by officials from the President’s Office.

In early November, Zelenskyy’s foreign policy advisor Ihor Zhovkva went on national television to assert that Zaluzhny’s statement “eases the work of the aggressor” by stirring “panic,” adding there should be no public discussion of the situation at the front. Zelenskyy himself then chided the general in an interview, warning the military not to engage in politics.

Deputy Head of the Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence Maryana Bezuhla piled on, alleging Zaluzhny had ignored U.S. General Mark Milley’s recommendations to mine Ukraine’s border with Russian occupied Crimea back in 2021 — an act of negligence, she implied, that cost Ukraine large swaths of territory in the south. However, Zelenskyy is unlikely to seek Zaluzhny’s dismissal, as it would instantly launch the soldier on a political career.

And that’s not all. On the heels of this kerfuffle, Zelenskyy’s allies in parliament then blocked a visit to Poland and the U.S. by former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The ostensible reason behind this was a report from Ukraine’s security service suggesting Poroshenko’s trip would be exploited by Russian propaganda. Of particular concern was a planned meeting between Poroshenko and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The idea that a seasoned leader like Poroshenko, whose tenure as president earned Western praise for his diplomatic skills, could be manipulated is, on the face of it, preposterous. And it later turned out that Zelenskyy himself would be meeting Orbán and didn’t want to be preempted.

These clear fractures need to be dealt with now.

Furthermore, as importantly, as domestic support erodes, Zelenskyy’s term in office is due to formally expire in May 2024, while the parliament’s four-year term expired in October. New elections are well-nigh impossible with millions of voters outside the country, a million engaged at the front and millions more internally displaced or under Russian occupation. Elections amid bloody combat and constant missiles and drone attacks on urban centers are unlikely, and would require both legislative and constitutional changes.

This issue of expiring mandates would be moot were the ratings of Zelenskyy and his party unassailable, but polls show a creeping disenchantment with both.

In this context, the time is ripe for Ukraine’s president to consider establishing a broad-based government of national unity. Opening the government to opposition and civil society leaders in this way would instantly provide legitimacy to the leadership team, reduce opposition criticism and widen the circle of voices that have the president’s ear.

There are compelling precedents for such a step too. For example, as World War II began, Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill understood Britain faced an existential threat that required sustaining national unity and created a broad-based coalition government. Churchill installed his main rival — Labour leader Clement Attlee — as deputy prime minister, and added Labour’s Ernest Bevin, a former trade union leader, to the national unity cabinet.

Similarly, this practice was followed most recently by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who offered opposition party leaders a place in a unity government after Hamas’s brutal October 7 attacks. The proposal was accepted by centrist Benny Gantz.

Since the beginning of his presidency, Zelenskyy has relied on an exceedingly narrow circle of trusted advisors. But while he meets with his top military command, intelligence officials, visiting Western leaders and the media, he has largely shut himself off from civic leaders, political critics and rivals — including some with important foreign policy, national security and economic experience.

Their inclusion in leadership posts would offer Zelenskyy additional input on policy options, allow for discussions of alternative tactics and contribute to new approaches when it comes to external relations. With national unity showing signs of fraying, a government that includes the opposition would truly give it a boost.

The only questions are whether Zelenskyy is flexible enough to overcome his contempt for most opposition leaders, and change his style of governing from highly centralized decision-making to more broad-based consensus-building.



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Putin says no peace in Ukraine until Russia’s goals are achieved

The Russian president was speaking at an end of year press conference, which was somewhat overshadowed by the peculiar disappearance of jailed former opposition leader Alexeï Navalny.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there will be no peace in Ukraine until his goals are achieved – and said those objectives remain unchanged.

Putin was speaking at a year-end news conference on Thursday which offered the leader an opportunity to reinforce his grip on power.

Giving rare detail on what Moscow calls its special military operation, Putin dismissed the need for a second wave of mobilisation of reservists to fight in Ukraine – a move that proved deeply unpopular in the past.

He said there are some 617,000 Russian soldiers currently there, including around 244,000 troops who were called up to fight alongside professional Russian military forces.

The Russian president, who has held power for nearly 24 years and announced recently he is running for reelection, was greeted with applause as he arrived in the hall in central Moscow.

Putin did not hold his traditional press conference last year after his military failed to take Kyiv while the Ukrainian army retook swaths of territory in the east and south of the country.

But with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy now forced to plead for more US aid, a stalling counteroffensive and reports of fracturing Western support for Ukraine, the Russian president has decided to face the media once more.

It seems, though, that the broadcast remained heavily choreographed and more about spectacle than scrutiny.

This year, ordinary citizens had the chance to phone in questions along with those asked by journalists – and Russians submitted queries for Putin over a two week period.

It was the first time Putin, who has heavily limited his interaction with foreign media, has faced multiple questions from Western journalists since the fighting in Ukraine began.

The press conference opened with questions about the conflict in Ukraine and highlighted concerns some Russians have about fears of another wave of mobilisation. In September 2022 Putin ordered a partial military call-up as he tried to boost his forces in Ukraine, sparking protests.

“There is no need,” for mobilisation now, Putin claimed, because 1,500 men are being recruited into the Russian army every day across the country. He said, as of Wednesday evening, a total of 486,000 soldiers have signed a contract with the Russian military.

Putin reiterated that Moscow’s goals in Ukraine – “de-Nazification, de-militarization and a neutral status” of Ukraine – remain unchanged.

He spelled out those loosely defined objectives the day he sent troops to the country in February 2022.

“De-Nazification” refers to Russia’s allegations that the Ukrainian government is heavily influenced by radical nationalist and neo-Nazi groups – claims derided by Kyiv and the West.

Putin has also demanded that Ukraine remain neutral – and not join the NATO alliance.

“There will be peace when we will achieve our goals,” Putin said, repeating a frequent Kremlin line.

His appearance was primarily aimed at a domestic audience and is a chance – performative or otherwise – for him to personally resolve the problems of ordinary Russian citizens ahead of the 17 March election.

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Putin fielded questions on Thursday from a group of children in Russian-annexed Crimea concerned about the leaking roof and mould in their sports hall as well as from a woman who addressed him as “my favourite president,” to complain about the spiking price of eggs.

State media said that as of Wednesday, about 2 million questions for Putin had been submitted ahead of the broadcast.

Journalists lined up for hours in freezing temperatures to get into the venue and some donned traditional dress, including elaborate hats in order to catch Putin’s attention. Many journalists also hold placards, prompting the Kremlin to limit the size of signs they can carry during the news conference, which often lasts about four hours.

Is Putin a shoo-in at the next election – and where is Navalny?

In the absence of real opposition, methodically eradicated by the Kremlin, Putin’s victory in March 2024 seems obvious.

The conference comes at a time when his main detractor, the imprisoned anti-corruption activist Alexeï Navalny, has not been heard from for more than a week.

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Last known to be serving a 19-year prison sentence for “extremism”, nobody has been able to track him down.

There are rumours that he may have been transferred to a penal colony with even harsher conditions, potentially an effort by the Kremlin to tighten his isolation as Putin fights his presidential campaign.

Earlier this week, worries spread about Navalny’s whereabouts after officials at the prison facility east of Moscow said he was no longer on the inmate roster.

Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh confirmed that his associates and lawyers have been unable to contact him for a week. Prison officials claim he has been moved from the jailhouse – but didn’t give further details.

Although from a Western perspective it sounds suspicious, prison transfers in Russia are notoriously secretive.

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Authorities rarely provide information about the whereabouts of inmates for weeks until they reach another facility and are given permission to contact relatives or lawyers.

Earlier this year, another prominent opposition figure, Andrei Pivovarov, also went missing during a prison transfer. His transfer, from a detention centre in Russia’s southern region of Krasnodar to a penal colony in the northwestern region of Karelia, took about a month.

Once at a new facility, prison officials there are legally obliged to notify relatives or lawyers within 10 days, but Kira Yarmysh said they can hardly be expected to follow the rules in Navalny’s case.

“They will try to hide him as long as possible,” she explained to the AP.

“I guess this was made deliberately to isolate Alexei during this period of time so he wouldn’t be able to influence all these things in any way, because everyone understands – and Putin, of course, understands – that Alexei is his main rival, even despite the fact that he is not on the ballot.”

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Asked on Tuesday where Navalny is, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov snapped that “we have neither a desire nor an opportunity to track down inmates.”

Commenting on US expressions of concern about Navalny, Peskov said in a conference call with reporters that he has been convicted and is serving his sentence, adding that “we consider any interference, including by the United States, inadmissible.”

Navalny, 47, has been behind bars since January 2021, when he was arrested upon his return from Germany where he had recuperated from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin.

Navalny, who campaigned against official corruption and organised major anti-government protests, has rejected all charges against him as a politically motivated vendetta.

The loss of contact with Navalny was particularly worrying, given that he recently fell ill, Yarmysh said. She said prison officials had given him an IV drip when he felt dizzy and he had to lie on the floor of his cell.

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While Putin’s reelection is all but certain, given his overwhelming control over the country’s political scene and a widening crackdown on dissent, Navalny’s supporters and other critics hope to use the campaign to erode public support for the Kremlin leader and his military action in Ukraine.

Since the start of his imprisonment, he has continued his scathing attacks on the Kremlin in comments his associates posted to social media.

“I guess they decided that it would be smarter for them to send him as far away because he’s still too loud and too present in the public field,” Yarmysh said.

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West ‘weary’ of supporting Ukraine, as US aid at stake

All the latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

West will tire of supporting Ukraine – Kremlin

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The Kremlin claimed on Monday that “weariness” about assisting Ukraine will increase in the West, amid a meeting by EU foreign ministers in Kyiv seeking to prove the opposite. 

“Weariness of [the] completely absurd support for the Kyiv regime will increase in different countries, particularly in the United States,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

The future of US aid to Kyiv is up in the air after it was left out of a temporary budget deal to avoid a shutdown in Washington. 

Peskov said he expected the US would “continue to be involved” in the Ukraine war “directly”. 

But war fatigue in the West will create more “divisions in the political establishment” and lead to “contradictions”, he claimed. 

His statement comes as the EU foreign ministers held a “historic meeting” in Kyin on Monday, aimed at expressing their “solidarity” with Ukraine, which ultimately aims to join the bloc. 

Faced with a slow Ukrainian counteroffensive and fears of declining Western support, French Minister Catherine Colonna said the gathering intended to show Moscow it “must not count” on the “weariness” of the EU. 

Kyiv strikes deals with French arms manufacturers

Several French defence companies have concluded supply contracts with Ukraine during a forum organised in Kyiv last week, AFP reported on Monday. 

Nexter, the French branch of the Franco-German group KNDS, will supply six additional Caesar cannons, according to the French Ministry of the Armed Forces.

Mounted on a truck, the Caesar can fire 155mm shells up to 40 kilometres away. 

Arquus, another French manufacturer, struck a deal to maintain and produce certain armoured vehicle parts, of which France sold more than 100 units to Ukraine. 

CEFA will provide eight SDZ heavy mine clearance robots as well as eight amphibious vehicles for crossing water. 

The company Delair, which concluded a contract this summer to supply 150 surveillance drones, has received a new order for 150 more units, according to its president Bastien Mancini.

Thales and Turgis & Gaillard have also each signed an agreement with Ukrainian companies to co-develop drones, while the company Vistory will install a 3D printing centre in Ukraine to produce spare parts.

How the contracts will be financed has not been announced, AFP reported it was possibly thanks to French subsidies.

Future of US aid to Ukraine at stake

Further military funding for Kyiv has been excluded from a last-minute budget deal in Washington. 

President Joe Biden reassured Ukraine the US would continue to support its war effort against Russia, despite the temporary measure that was pushed through Congress to avoid a government shutdown. 

Funding for Ukraine has become increasingly politicised in the US, with hardline Republicans arguing they do not want to write a “blank check” for Kyiv.

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Biden and the Democrats argue Washington has a duty to help Ukraine resist the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Otherwise, they warn, autocrats would be emboldened in the future.

Doubts now hang over US military assistance, with repercussions on the ground feared thousands of kilometres away.

“This should worry leaders in Kyiv,” said analyst Brett Bruen. “I think in Moscow they are celebrating signals that our support may be waning.” 

Ukraine is already concerned about the possible re-election of Donald Trump, who has previously praised Putin.

Democrats said Saturday they expected a separate measure on aid to Ukraine in the coming days.

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The US has already supplied some $ 46 billion (€43 billion) in military aid to Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Biden wants to send another $24 billion (€23 billion).

Behind all this political wrangling in the US lies another problem: War fatigue. Faced with biting inflation, US voters are growing increasingly sceptical. 

An ABC/Washington Post poll released September 24 showed that 41% of respondents thought Washington was doing too much to support Ukraine, up from 33% in February and 14% in April 2022.

Ukraine will not give in, says Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president said in a speech on Sunday that his country will remain resolute against Russia, one day after US Congress passed a budget deal that left out military aid for Kyiv.  

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a pre-recorded speech did not directly mention the US move but maintained nothing would not weaken his country’s resolve. 

No one would diminish Ukraine’s bravery and strength, he said, adding the country would only lay down arms on the day of victory. 

“As we draw closer to it every day, we say, ‘We will fight for as long as it takes,'” said the Ukrainian leader. 

No plans to send British troops to Ukraine – UK PM

Rishi Sunak has said there are no plans to deploy British military forces in Ukraine after his defence minister suggested troop trainers could be sent to the country. 

The UK and its Western allies have not formally put boots on the ground in Ukraine fearing escalating conflict with Russia. 

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However, leaked classified documents in April purported to show special forces from the UK and other NATO countries were deployed inside the country. 

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, British defence minister Grant Shapps – appointed to the role last month – said he wanted to send military instructors to Ukraine, while also training the Ukrainian army in Britain. 

Sunak rowed back on this hours after the interview was published, saying there were no immediate plans to deploy British troops. 

“What the defence secretary was saying was that it might well be possible one day in the future for us to do some of that training in Ukraine,” Sunak told reporters. “But that’s something for the long term, not the here and now. 

“There are no British soldiers that will be sent to fight in the current conflict.”

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Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday said any British soldier in Ukraine would be legitimate target for Russian forces. 

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Zelenskyy at the White House: Five things Ukraine wants from the US

What does Kyiv want and need from the world’s superpower, as it battles Russian forces?

As war rages back at home, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is due in the White House on Thursday.

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He will meet his US counterpart for talks, hot off the back of a visit to the UN HQ in New York.

But what does Ukraine want – and need – from the US right now? And more importantly, can Washington give it?

1. Secure aid

US President Joe Biden is trying to give Ukraine an extra $24 billion in security and humanitarian aid to help oust Russia from its territory.

Still, despite promising to help Kyiv “as long as it takes”, his attempt is deeply uncertain thanks to a growing political impasse in Congress about federal spending. 

Republican lawmakers are pushing for broad budgetary cuts and a government shutdown looms at the end of the month.

“There are a lot of divisions within America’s domestic environment, particularly at the government level,” says Georgina Taylor, who is researching the Ukraine war at Leeds University. “Zelenskyy is going to make one final push to try and get that aid.”

2. Shore up US support

Behind the standoff in Washington lies a growing partisan divide, with some “America First” Republicans wanting to halt aid for Ukraine entirely.

“There is an apprehension on the US side when it comes to sending more money,” Taylor tells Euronews, adding right-wingers were increasingly critical of the supposed “blank cheque” handed to Kyiv.

This is something Ukraine’s number one is likely to try and address, meeting US lawmakers from both sides of the political divide during his trip.

Further afield Taylor claims Zelenskyy will want to shore up support ahead of the US 2024 Presidential Election which could see Donald Trump come to power.

The embattled former president – currently facing several criminal charges – has not committed to backing Ukraine in the war against Russia, saying in March that we wanted “everybody to stop dying”.

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A CNN poll last month found most Americans oppose giving more money to Ukraine, with 55% saying US Congress should not authorise further funding. 

3. Inspire confidence in counteroffensive

Ukraine’s progress in the counteroffensive will definitely come up when the two leaders meet, says Leed University’s Georgian Taylor.

“It’s a very difficult topic to discuss because there are so many factors… but I do think the US would like to see more progress being made,” she tells Euronews.

“But I don’t necessarily think there will be a forceful push that Kyiv needs to make gains on the battlefield… because that’s a very bold claim, especially when you are not directly involved in the fighting.”

Equipped with billions in Western arms, Kyiv launched its counteroffensive against Russian forces in June. Progress has been slow, with Moscow mounting stiff resistance.

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Zelenskyy may relay to Biden a “more strategic vision” of the war, adds Dr Jade McGlynn a researcher at King’s College, pointing to “striking differences” between Western understandings of the conflict and Ukraine’s.

The Ukrainian leader will want to make the case why Ukraine should win a total victory, which is framed as expelling Russian forces from its territory completely.

“From the point of view of some in the West, the war is increasingly framed as there needs to be peace, and peace involves compromise,” suggests McGlynn, alluding to arguments that Kyiv should give Moscow captured land in exchange for stoping hostilities. 

Yet, the researcher claims Ukraine has had “pretty recent evidence that appeasement does not work”, citing Russia’s proxy war in eastern Ukraine that began in 2014.

“The vast majority of Ukrainians don’t want to compromise on territory because… of the threat that would pose for the future of Ukraine and their children.” 

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“They measure the war in much darker terms than some Western observers might think.” 

4. More weapons

Another item on the agenda will likely be weaponry, with Ukraine needing more guns and ammunition amid its grinding offensive in the south and east. 

“The Ukrainians won’t necessarily be seeking new weapons… The main point is to get them on time,” says McGlynn. “That’s been the key sticking point because… an awful lot of what was promised has been delayed…  or it’s taken too long to get there.”

Zelenskyy warned world leaders in April that delays in supplying his country with more weapons were costing lives.

Kyiv’s need for weaponry is more pressing as officials – including the Ukrainian president himself – have said the country’s counteroffensive will not pause this winter, despite the weather making it harder to fight.

A months-long pause last year is seen by some as having given Russia ample time to prepare its defences, making Ukraine’s campaign much harder.

5. Push NATO membership

Following the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukraine renewed its efforts to join NATO.

Its ambitious bid has been frustrated, however, with the US-led military alliance delincing Kyiv’s request for fast-track membership in September 2022.

“Zelenskyy is constantly pushing for NATO recognition,” says Taylor, believing the topic would likely be a talking point in the White House. 

She suggests the seeming rapprochement between Russia and North Korea – with the leaders of both countries meeting last week – could make these “NATO conversations more comprehensive.”

“We don’t know if the conflict will spill out of Ukraine’s borders. That risk is always there,” Taylor tells Euronews, though adds: “there were far more immediate things to focus on” when Biden and Zelenskyy meet. 

Some observers see Ukraine’s NATO membership as the best way of ensuring the country’s and Europe’s future peace, with its security umbrella deterring possible Russian aggression.

However, experts told Euronews there are several reasons why Kyiv could not join the alliance, including the risk of a wider war, Kyiv’s lack of preparedness and the potential propaganda victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Zelenskyy at the White House: Five things Ukraine wants from the US

What does Kyiv want and need from the world’s superpower, as it battles Russian forces?

As war rages back at home, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is due in the White House on Thursday.

ADVERTISEMENT

He will meet his US counterpart for talks, hot off the back of a visit to the UN HQ in New York.

But what does Ukraine want – and need – from the US right now? And more importantly, can Washington give it?

1. Secure aid

US President Joe Biden is trying to give Ukraine an extra $24 billion in security and humanitarian aid to help oust Russia from its territory.

Still, despite promising to help Kyiv “as long as it takes”, his attempt is deeply uncertain thanks to a growing political impasse in Congress about federal spending. 

Republican lawmakers are pushing for broad budgetary cuts and a government shutdown looms at the end of the month.

“There are a lot of divisions within America’s domestic environment, particularly at the government level,” says Georgian Taylor, who is researching the Ukraine war at Leeds University. “Zelenskyy is going to make one final push to try and get that aid.”

2. Shore up US support

Behind the standoff in Washington lies a growing partisan divide, with some “America First” Republicans wanting to halt aid for Ukraine entirely.

“There is an apprehension on the US side when it comes to sending more money,” Taylor tells Euronews, adding right-wingers were increasingly critical of the supposed “blank cheque” handed to Kyiv.

This is something Ukraine’s number one is likely to try and address, meeting US lawmakers from both sides of the political divide during his trip.

Further afield Taylor claims Zelenskyy will want to shore up support ahead of the US 2024 Presidential Election which could see Donald Trump come to power.

The embattled former president – currently facing several criminal charges – has not committed to backing Ukraine in the war against Russia, saying in March that we wanted “everybody to stop dying”.

ADVERTISEMENT

A CNN poll last month found most Americans oppose giving more money to Ukraine, with 55% saying US Congress should not authorise further funding. 

3. Inspire confidence in counteroffensive

Ukraine’s progress in the counteroffensive will definitely come up when the two leaders meet, says Leed University’s Georgian Taylor.

“It’s a very difficult topic to discuss because there are so many factors… but I do think the US would like to see more progress being made,” she tells Euronews.

“But I don’t necessarily think there will be a forceful push that Kyiv needs to make gains on the battlefield… because that’s a very bold claim, especially when you are not directly involved in the fighting.”

Equipped with billions in Western arms, Kyiv launched its counteroffensive against Russian forces in June. Progress has been slow, with Moscow mounting stiff resistance.

ADVERTISEMENT

Zelenskyy may relay to Biden a “more strategic vision” of the war, adds Dr Jade McGlynn a researcher at King’s College, pointing to “striking differences” between Western understandings of the conflict and Ukraine’s.

The Ukrainian leader will want to make the case why Ukraine should win a total victory, which is framed as expelling Russian forces from its territory completely.

“From the point of view of some in the West, the war is increasingly framed as there needs to be peace, and peace involves compromise,” suggests McGlynn, alluding to arguments that Kyiv should give Moscow captured land in exchange for stoping hostilities. 

Yet, the researcher claims Ukraine has had “pretty recent evidence that appeasement does not work”, citing Russia’s proxy war in eastern Ukraine that began in 2014.

“The vast majority of Ukrainians don’t want to compromise on territory because… of the threat that would pose for the future of Ukraine and their children.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

“They measure the war in much darker terms than some Western observers might think.” 

4. More weapons

Another item on the agenda will likely be weaponry, with Ukraine needing more guns and ammunition amid its grinding offensive in the south and east. 

“The Ukrainians won’t necessarily be seeking new weapons… The main point is to get them on time,” says McGlynn. “That’s been the key sticking point because… an awful lot of what was promised has been delayed…  or it’s taken too long to get there.”

Zelenskyy warned world leaders in April that delays in supplying his country with more weapons were costing lives.

Kyiv’s need for weaponry is more pressing as officials – including the Ukrainian president himself – have said the country’s counteroffensive will not pause this winter, despite the weather making it harder to fight.

A months-long pause last year is seen by some as having given Russia ample time to prepare its defences, making Ukraine’s campaign much harder.

5. Push NATO membership

Following the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukraine renewed its efforts to join NATO.

Its ambitious bid has been frustrated, however, with the US-led military alliance delincing Kyiv’s request for fast-track membership in September 2022.

“Zelenskyy is constantly pushing for NATO recognition,” says Taylor, believing the topic would likely be a talking point in the White House. 

She suggests the seeming rapprochement between Russia and North Korea – with the leaders of both countries meeting last week – could make these “NATO conversations more comprehensive.”

“We don’t know if the conflict will spill out of Ukraine’s borders. That risk is always there,” Taylor tells Euronews, though adds: “there were far more immediate things to focus on” when Biden and Zelenskyy meet. 

Some observers see Ukraine’s NATO membership as the best way of ensuring the country’s and Europe’s future peace, with its security umbrella deterring possible Russian aggression.

However, experts told Euronews there are several reasons why Kyiv could not join the alliance, including the risk of a wider war, Kyiv’s lack of preparedness and the potential propaganda victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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