By HANNA ARHIROVA
April 17, 2023
KYIV, Ukraine — A top Ukrainian official said Monday that Ukraine will launch its counteroffensive against Russian troops when it’s ready, adding that it’s only a matter of time before the country achieves the necessary level of military preparedness to do so.
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told The Associated Press in an interview in Kyiv that Ukraine’s allies are helping the government to achieve the level of technical equipment necessary to launch the attack, delivering heavy armored vehicles and ammunition.
But he also expressed frustration that sometimes officials from allied countries “promise one thing and do a completely different one.” He didn’t elaborate.
“If we aren’t ready, then nobody will start unprepared,” he said.
Speaking about a major U.S. intelligence leak, Danilov echoed other Ukrainian leaders who say they don’t see it as gravely damaging future offensives, stressing that Ukraine doesn’t share highly sensitive information with anyone.
“If someone thinks that we report to someone, then he is deeply mistaken,” he said. Such sensitive security matters are decided in closed meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and “only there will it be decided when, in what direction, at what pace we will liberate our territory,” he added.
The documents include previously unreported sensitive disclosures about Ukraine, including just how close Ukraine’s vital air defense systems are to running out of missiles, with stocks expected to be exhausted as soon as late this month or May. That would open Ukraine’s skies to more of the Russian air and artillery strikes that already have devastated cities and infrastructure.
Danilov refused to comment on Ukraine’s current stockpiles of weapons, saying only that “it will be enough to curb Russia.”
Still, he said that Ukraine was working round the clock to prepare for a possible offensive, “including Saturday and Sunday. There is no vacation in war.”
“It’s only a matter of time. This time comes with a very high price for us.”
Danilov stopped short of confirming that the Patriot air defense system promised by the U.S. has arrived in Ukraine, but strongly hinted that they have. Asked to comment on statements by Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat last week in which he said that the Patriot was expected in Ukraine sometime after Easter, he said: “Well, Easter has passed already.”
“The answer to your question is simple: everything is good,” he added.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has turned into a stalemate amid heavy fighting in the country’s east, particularly around the town of Bakhmut which for eight and a half months has been the stage for the war’s longest and bloodiest fight.
Bakhmut lies in Donetsk province, one of four provinces Russia illegally annexed last fall. Moscow controls about half of the province. Bakhmut is a stepping stone to seizing the remaining half.
Ukrainian officials have said they’re buying time by depleting Russian forces in the battle while Kyiv prepares a counteroffensive. Zelenskyy argues that if Russia wins the Bakhmut battle, Russian President Vladimir Putin might be able to begin building international support for a deal that would require Ukraine to make unacceptable compromises to end the war.
Danilov is confident that it not only turned the tiny settlement into “the place the whole world speaks about,” but proves “it’s extremely hard to conquer Ukraine by military means” for Russia.
He also remains confident in Ukraine’s efforts to return to its occupied territories.
“We will defeat Russia,” he said. “If you have a strong inner spirit, you will definitely win. And we always had it strong. This is something that always annoyed the Russians.”