June 17, 2024

Blinken: Ukraine Takes Back Almost 50% of Land Seized by Russia

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Ukrainians have “already taken back about 50%” of the territory seized by Russia since the invasion as the embattled country continues its counter-offensive.

Asked to weigh in on reports that Ukraine is facing a tough time in its stepped-up fight to repel the Russian invaders, Blinken told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that the Kremlin has failed to achieve its goal.

“They’re already lost,” Blinken said in an interview that aired Sunday. “The objective was to erase Ukraine from the map, to end its independence, its sovereignty, its inclusion in Russia.”

Although Blinken admitted that the fight is “tough” for the Ukrainians, he also highlighted how strong they were.

“He has already returned about 50% of what was initially seized,” he said. “They have a very hard fight now to take back, to take back more. These are still relatively early days of the counteroffensive.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking alongside his ally Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, on Sunday said Ukraine’s counteroffensive failed “.”

International aid has helped Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s forces, Blinken said, but Ukrainian resolve may be the most important factor in the counteroffensive.

“Unlike the Russians, the Ukrainians are fighting for their land, for their future, for their country, for their freedom,” he said. “I think that will be the deciding factor, and that will play out. But it won’t play out in a week or two. We’re still looking at several months I think.”

In a separate interview, Zelenskyy told Zakaria that he would have preferred to start the counteroffensive earlier, but his forces did not have the necessary weapons.

“We had plans to start it in the spring,” he said. “But we didn’t, because, frankly, we didn’t have enough ammunition and weapons, and we didn’t have enough brigades properly trained in these weapons. Even more so, that the training missions were held outside Ukraine.”

Asked why the US did not grant Zelenskyy’s request for US F-16 fighter jets, Blinken said the authorization process is ongoing. The most important thing is for Ukraine to use the fighters in a “smart way,” he said.

“It’s not just the equipment itself,” he said. “It’s the training, it’s the maintenance, it’s the ability to use it in combined arms operations. All that takes time. If a decision was made to go ahead with the F-16s tomorrow, it would be months and months before they were actually operational.”

The United States is previously stated F-16s should arrive in Ukraine by the end of 2023, but National Security Council spokesman John Kirby noted that the fighter jets alone “will not be enough to turn the tide here.”

Meanwhile, Russia blamed Ukraine on Monday for a drone attack near the main headquarters of the Ministry of Defense in Moscow, according to The Associated Press. Ukraine accused Russia of attacking port infrastructure in southern Ukraine, injuring seven people and destroying a grain hangar, AP reported.

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