Ukraine

Ukraine: 'Winter will be turning point in war' after awe-inspiring counter-offensive

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has predicted that this winter would be a "turning point" in the war as his forces make significant gains in a counter-offensive against Russia that has been so successful that it has left military strategists in awe.

President Zelensky stressed that Ukraine had to survive the coming winter months and called on his allies for more military support, saying that more weapons would give his country the thrust it needed over the next 90 days to take back the regions occupied by Russian forces.

He spoke as Ukraine reclaimed large parts of territory in the south and east of the country that had been held by invading Russian forces.

President Zelensky, speaking at the 17th annual meeting of the Yalta European Strategy on Saturday, said: "I believe that this winter is a turning point, and it can lead to the rapid de-occupation of Ukraine."

He added that if his forces were a little stronger with weapons "we could de-occupy faster".

 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky: "This winter will determine our future" (Picture: Ukraine Presidency/ Alamy /Live News).

He said the coming three hard winter months would be the deciding moment for Ukraine's future, adding that Ukraine was already seeing Russian forces "fleeing in some directions".

He added: "I know that everyone is wondering about the main question: When?

"When will we have walked this path, when will we have victory? The answer to this question could be born by the stage that is right in front of us.

"I'm telling you openly: This stage will be difficult. We have to survive this winter."

President Zelensky spoke of the next 90 days facing his country during the winter, saying the fight to keep the country free of Russian occupation, after more than 30 years of independence from the control of Russia and the former Soviet state of the USSR, would be difficult.

He said: "We have 90 days in front of us which will solve more than 30 years of Ukrainian independence. Ninety days that will solve more than all years of the European Union's existence.

"This winter will determine our future and the risk it will take."

The Ukrainian president spoke as British Defence Intelligence reported that the country had made "significant gains in the Kharkiv region" in the east, over the past 24 hours.

Russia admitted on Saturday that it was withdrawing from Izium, one of its biggest losses of territory in the 200 days of conflict.

Watch: How the Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russia is supported.

Ukraine's counter-offensive has so far impressed military analysts for how effective it has been for a country with such limited military resources against the might of the Russian army.

Ed Arnold, a defence analyst at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and a former infantry officer, said of the counter-offensive: "It's got patience, strategy, analysis, a plan, execution and (thus far) exploitation.

"As an ex-military planner, I am in awe. Very rarely see altogether."

President Zelensky's speech at this weekend's annual meeting followed an earlier public address in which he praised his military, saying his forces had taken 770 square miles back from Russia this month.

He said the Russian army was "demonstrating the best it can do – showing its back" and that "they made a good choice to run".

Other analysts have also highlighted the success of Ukraine's strategy in defending the country from Russia and taking back control of some areas.

Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military at the US think tank CNA, said the counter-offensive "has proven a very significant victory for Ukraine".

"Russian forces appear to have been spread thinly, and military leadership unprepared despite earlier evidence of Ukrainian build-up.

"I think it's fair to assess that Russia was caught by surprise with little in the way of reserves locally available."