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Losses of Armed Forces, leaks of counteroffensives, plans for 2024. Key points from Zelenskyy's press conference

Losses of Armed Forces, leaks of counteroffensives, plans for 2024. Key points from Zelenskyy's press conference President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy (photo:а)

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave his second major press conference in two months. At it, he named Ukraine's losses in the war, spoke about plans for the military year 2024 and what could affect them. RBC-Ukraine cites the key statements made by the President

On the first peace summit

The President said that Ukraine does not want any formats of peace talks and peace formulas to be imposed on it.

"The initiative can only come from Ukraine... And today we have reached the moment of the first summit (of peace - ed.). I hope the first summit, the inaugural one, will take place in the spring, we must not lose the diplomatic initiative, it will be held in Switzerland. As for the second summit, we want it to be, perhaps, not on the European continent, but on another one... I think that in the coming weeks and months, this information will definitely appear," he said.

According to him, a plan will be developed at the first summit, and then the countries will technically deal with each crisis that the war provoked. And they will prepare a document, as they did with the grain initiative. That is, not directly with Russia.

"This does not mean that Russia will accept this document. But in any case, we say that this document will be presented by the negotiators in one format or another to the Russian side. And we will be ready for the second summit, for appropriate diplomatic steps towards a just peace and the end of the war," Zelenskyy added.

Earlier today, the head of the President's office, Andriy Yermak, suggested that Russia might be invited to the peace summit, but not to the first one.

On negotiations with Putin

Zelenskyy was asked whether Ukraine was losing the war and whether it was time to talk to Vladimir Putin, given that there will be elections in the United States in November and that the leader may change. The president doubts that it is possible to talk to a "deaf person."

"This is a legal and diplomatic issue. We will offer a platform on which he can agree that he lost the war and that it was a big mistake... Will Ukraine lose this war? I am sure that it will not. The most difficult thing was February 24 two years ago. At least we have no alternative to not winning, no possibility of losing. What happens if Ukraine loses? We won't exist, our existence will be over, so we don't want such an ending," he said.

According to him, it depends on the Western partners whether Ukraine loses or wins, and with how many victims. If Ukraine is strong, then Putin's daily steps backward will definitely have a great impact on his society.

"Then he will think about internal security. Today, Putin operates with plans and figures and talks about plans for 2030. He sees himself by 2030, and we would like to finish with him earlier," Zelenskyy added.

On the vision of victory

When asked whether the vision of Ukraine's victory has changed over the past two years, Zelenskyy did not give a direct answer. According to him, the war is changing the country, making people tired and tougher. And his communication depends on what is "inside him and inside society."

"Ukrainians have no alternative but to choose their security. And it has to be guaranteed by us, internal security, a very strong army while we are not in NATO, as well as security assurances from our partners. Assurances that in case of any return of Russian aggression to the territory of Ukraine, while we are not in the Alliance, they must protect us," he said.

On long-range weapons

Zelenskyy also answered a question about contacts with partners to provide long-range weapons.

"Regarding ATACMS for 300 km. You understand why we need it. So I would not like to talk in detail, but we understand why. And Russia understands what we will do with it. We have been working on long-range weapons for a long time. I would answer in a generalized way. I am positive about the recent response from our partners regarding these weapons," he emphasized.

On Macron's visit and new weapons from France

The President called the agreement on security assurances with France a good agreement, announced some more details, but noted that initiatives should come from the French leader.

"You know that we expect Emmanuel Macron to come to Ukraine, and he will be here. I understand when, for security reasons I am not saying a specific date, but he will be here soon. I think that there will be some more details about support for Ukraine. Important, new ones," he emphasized.

He also added that France has already promised to provide several dozen Caesar air defense systems. And there are "some more things" that will be announced when Macron arrives.

On problems with US aid

Zelenskyy commented on the delay in the allocation of a package worth billions of dollars from the United States due to the position of Republicans in the House of Representatives.

"There is hope for the Congress. I hope there will be a positive outcome. Otherwise, I don't understand what kind of world we are starting to live in. We are counting on the support of the Congress. They know we need their support within a month... I met with senators... the president, the government and the opposition, they know we need this decision within a month," he said.

The request includes air defense equipment. In addition, Zelenskyy reminded that the billions allocated by the United States mostly remain in American defense companies.

On the blockade of the border by Poland

Answering a question about the blockade of the border by Poland and the cases of spilled grain, he recalled that he had said in April 2023 that this was a political story. This has not changed after the elections in the country.

"I understand that there is an internal struggle in Poland. I would not want politicians to do this... It is simply unfair to use Ukraine as pressure on European institutions. I think the prime ministers will find appropriate steps. It is important for us to maintain our alliance with Poland. If no steps are found, we will protect our business," the President added.

On the lack of artillery and the inability to conduct an offensive

At the beginning of last year and the end of this year, the intensity of artillery used by the Russians at the front was about 1:12. Now it is about 1:7, the enemy's advantage has decreased, but it is still significant, so it is too early to talk about offensive operations of the Armed Forces.

"We need to get to the point where we had counteroffensives, where we were outnumbered 1:1.5, 1:3. Then we will be able to push the Russians back. Until there is such a number, we can stand or lose 50-100 meters, unfortunately. All this is important, but the military decides that it is strategically more important not to lose people," he said.

According to him, Avdiivka was more of a political victory for Russia. As soon as there is a 1:1 ratio in terms of weapons, Ukraine will show results.

What happens if the US Congress does not support the billions of dollars package

Answering the question of what will happen if Ukraine does not receive a positive decision from Congress within a month, Zelenskyy reminded that this is not a matter of financial reserve but of weapons.

"You understand what the result will be. We will simply be weakened on the battlefield, I cannot say what will happen here. I don't have a reserve, we have the weapons we have, and we will look for other opportunities to buy weapons... to put pressure on our partners... This is a matter of specific weapons packages. The Patriot system costs 1.5 billion dollars, but you can't buy it without the United States. That's the answer. Is it possible to strengthen air defense without the United States? No, there are no corresponding systems in the world. What is available in the world as an alternative is in small quantities, very small," he said.

On mobilization law

He also commented on the timing of the adoption of the new law on mobilization.

"As for the law... 3000 amendments. Let the deputies work and then tell the country what will happen next. Thank you," Zelenskyy emphasized.

On Europe's inability to replace supplies from the United States

Zelenskyy is not sure that if the United States stops military supplies, Europe will be able to replace them.

"Can Germany give us its air defense systems? I don't know, I'm not sure that German society is ready to give us all air defense systems. As for long-range weapons, it's a different matter, we will work... As for Italy... I am grateful to Prime Minister Meloni... I know in detail what is happening in Italy... But not everything depends on Italy, we are talking about the G7 countries, other countries that can provide, perhaps not Patriot systems, but SAMP-T, IRIS-T, HAWK, many other things in different countries. But I cannot say whether this will be enough. But it would be good," the president said.

Zelenskyy added that Europe is changing and has begun to increase the production of ammunition for Ukraine. Although the main issue is not ammunition, but the unpreparedness of European societies for war with Russia.

About Ukrainian losses in the war

When asked to name Ukrainian casualties, Zelenskyy initially said he did not know whether he had the right to do so. The information about the alleged hundreds of thousands of dead, which is cited by Western and Russian media, is a lie. But he did name the number of dead defenders.

"31 thousand Ukrainian soldiers died in this war. Not 300 thousand, not 150 thousand, as Putin is lying about... Nevertheless, each of these losses is a great loss for us. 180,000 Russians died, a total of 180,000 deaths, and up to 500,000 wounded. I won't say how many Ukrainians are wounded, because Russia will know how many people have left the battlefield. There are missing persons, and I will not play with these numbers. Why? The last exchange showed that we would not be accurate because we returned several people who were on the list of missing persons, but two guys came back alive. And there are tens of thousands of dead civilians in the temporarily occupied territories," the President said.

On Ukraine's invitation to NATO

Ukraine's invitation to join NATO, which our country expects to receive at the next summit in Washington, depends on key countries.

"I do not want to play with words. Today, this decision depends on the United States and Germany, this is a fact. I don't see any risks in inviting Ukraine to NATO... The risks that are being voiced, I believe, are related to the inadequacy of Putin's reaction. I think there are no risks in this step, or I don't know anything. If we are not invited, we will not be invited," he added.

On meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the Normandy summit in Paris

During a one-on-one meeting with Putin on December 9, 2019, he had a long conversation in different tones.

"I told him that the Minsk agreements would not work, because the very subject of withdrawal of troops along the demarcation line does not work. I explained it to him with very specific figures... I showed him that we would be withdrawing for 20 years, which meant that we would be in a state of frozen conflict for 20 years. The second question was about gas, about the court case that we won... there was an acceptance that they would give us the money. The third question was about the exchange, and then we exchanged more than 100 people. He kept raising the issue of a ceasefire, but we saw that there were still losses later," the president said, adding that he did not remember all the details.

On Taurus missiles

It is very important for Ukraine to receive German Taurus air defense missiles.

"I will say this: The United States, and then Germany, and so on in everything. I'm not saying that the chancellor depends on the president, but that this has always been the order of operations. If the United States took a step forward, we could use them as an example and continue to work (with others - ed.). That's all. Since I am in a positive mood about the United States, I believe that we will have results everywhere," Zelenskyy emphasized.

On Mirage 2000 fighters

The President also said that some partners fear Ukraine's defeat in the war. And he confirmed that Ukraine is negotiating the supply of French Mirage 2000 fighter jets.

"Yes, we talked about airplanes," he said briefly.

On what Ukraine can expect in a war of attrition

RBC-Ukraine asked Zelenskyy what Ukraine can expect in a war of attrition and what our country should do if one of its partners goes off course.

"Diplomatically working to ensure that no one leaves the race depends not only on us but also on societies in other countries, electoral processes... The bravest people are even fighting public opinion to help Ukraine. I will say that very few people have lost their positions as heads of state to support Ukraine, many leaders have changed public opinion, especially in places where Russia's information presence has dominated for many years... and people have begun to realize where they live... Someone may withdraw from the race, but someone may also come. We are working on support from other continents, which is more difficult," Zelenskyy said, singling out Europe and the United States as key partners.

As an alternative, the president mentioned drones and increasing Ukrainian arms production. He also confirmed that Ukraine will receive a million+ drones this year. He expressed special gratitude to the Scandinavian countries, which work daily to find weapons and ammunition for Ukraine.

On the release of political prisoners

Zelenskyy said that there are no plans to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the near future. But there is contact at different levels.

"He, Turkey, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the countries that we work with on exchange lists. Crimean Tatars, Crimeans, journalists, political prisoners, unfortunately, many different people are captured there. We work in a circle of four countries," the president said.

On what will happen if Putin calls

The President also answered the question of whether he would pick up the phone if Putin called.

"He doesn't have a cell phone, how can he call me? I don't work with the telegraph like in year 1917. He won't call me, he doesn't want to end the war, that's the way it is today. By weakening the army on the battlefield, increasing political isolation in the world, weakening them with sanctions... To be honest, it's all about making Putin poor, for him money is No. 1... He ensures the safety of money, even frozen abroad... I think this is his weak point," Zelenskyy said.

He also added that if the partner countries transfer frozen funds to Ukraine, it will weaken Putin. Then he will call everyone and look for ways to end the war.

On the alleged illegitimacy of the lack of elections in Ukraine

The topic of Zelenskyy's alleged illegitimacy due to the fact that there will be no presidential elections in Ukraine in the spring is not the opinion of Western partners, but the narrative of the Russian Federation.

"There are documents that confirm this... the documents even contain amounts of money that are allocated to certain institutions to raise this topic," he said.

On the leaked counteroffensive plan for 2023

The President noted that not everything is going according to plan at the front, but many things depend on the partners.

"The main thing is to have a plan, and we have this plan. I cannot give details... the fewer people know the plans of the Ukrainian army, the faster the victory will be. Our plans were on the Kremlin's desk last fall before the counteroffensive began. Period," Zelenskyy said.

On the grain corridor

Ukraine is not currently looking for an alternative to the grain corridor, but is in favor of expanding the initiative.

"As I told President Erdogan, we are in favor of expanding these corridors. We will be grateful if more countries join (the initiative - ed.), but we are not looking for an alternative to what is working now. I believe that Erdogan can help us with Mykolaiv, we talked about opening the sea. We know that Turkey has discussed with the UN Secretary General the possibility of free navigation in the Black Sea. We believe that this issue can be resolved at the first inaugural peace summit. I hope President Erdogan will be there," he said.

On whether Ukraine is at its weakest point

The President does not believe that the current situation on the frontline indicates that Ukraine is at its weakest point.

"February 24 was shocking two years ago. Now is the most difficult moment for our unity. If we fall apart externally with our partners and, God forbid, internally, then this will be our weakest moment. So far, this has not happened," Zelenskyy emphasized and expressed hope that the third year of the war would be a turning point.

On the possible reduction of ministries

According to him, the number of ministries may be reduced.

"If the deficit (of money - ed.) continues, we will do everything to reduce the infrastructure, and this is not just about the Cabinet of Ministers, to reduce the infrastructure of our country. There is such a format, we are prepared for it. Reducing the number of ministries and ministers. I think the indicator will be an understanding of what we will have in the spring. In a month or two we will understand," he said.

On spilled grain in Poland

Commenting on the situation with the spilled grain in Poland, the President noted that Ukraine imports $1.7 billion worth of Polish goods per year. A blockade of that amount would have a negative impact on Poland, but Ukraine is doing everything it can to avoid blocking relations.

"The new government needs to resolve this issue quickly... It's not right for international relations with Ukraine. This is the fourth time they've done it. This can be done (prevented - ed.) with the help of the security service, the police. There are many opportunities, there should be a will," Zelenskyy added.

On the delay in the supply of military equipment even for the 2023 counteroffensive

Speaking about the need to prepare reserves, conduct an audit in the army, and put things in order not only on the first line, Zelenskyy described how the 2023 counteroffensive was being prepared.

"We had a fist for a counteroffensive. I won't say how much was being prepared, but to this day, out of that package (assistance from partners - ed.), four brigades are still unarmed, without the equipment we agreed on. Could these four brigades fight? No, they were standing around waiting for the equipment. There are questions and they need to be answered, and that's what the audit is for," he said.

On plans for the military year 2024

Answering a question about a new possible counteroffensive for 2024, the president said that there is a clear plan, but he could not give details.

"The plan is related to the leadership. Several plans will be prepared due to information leaks. As for why I am changing someone (referring to the appointment of Oleksandr Syrskyi instead of Valerii Zaluzhnyi - ed.), these are our internal issues," he said.

On the defense lines

Zelenskyy noted that Oleksandr Syrskyi and Rustem Umerov would be responsible for the new defense lines. And after the audit, it will be clear where we have weaknesses.

"By the way, as far as I know, everything was done at the highest level in the Kupiansk direction. And it is being used as an example for other areas," he added.

On Transnistria's plans to "ask" to join Russia

The president commented on the intention of Transnistrian separatists to declare their desire to "join" Russia next week and answered the question whether Ukraine could intervene.

"We are at war, we are at war with the Russian Federation, Moldova has not addressed us with such requests. I'm not sure that Transnistrians will go for it," he said.

On why a new law on mobilization is needed

Mobilization in Ukraine has been going on since the very first days, and the changes to the law that the military and the Defense Ministry want are related to the fact that the issues of conscripts, rotations, vacations, how long to serve, and how much training to do have not been resolved.

"The parameters are changing because the law on mobilization was before the war and mostly does not coincide with the realities of the war," Zelenskyy said.

On the involvement of foreign armies

Ukraine is not negotiating with partners to involve their armies in the war on the territory of Ukraine.

"If Ukraine is in NATO, then we will use the 5th Amendment (the article on collective security - ed.) accordingly. Although, from our experience, Russia does not attack any of the NATO countries," the President said.

On what awaits Ukraine in 2024

It will be very difficult for Ukraine in the coming months due to fluctuations in the US, which affect support from some other countries.

"It will be difficult for us in March-April, we will go through such a period of waves, both political and financial, of different pressures. Russia will be preparing an offensive in early summer or late May, if they can. They will prepare, we will prepare for battle... For our part, we will prepare our plan and follow it. The US elections will be the turning point, and from then on we will understand what will happen after that," Zelenskyy said.

He cited air defense systems as an example that could significantly turn the tide in Ukraine's favor.

"If Ukraine could get 10 Patriot systems for key industrial centers in the coming months... If we could use these systems closer to the front, they would retreat. We would have broken their defense and moved forward. 10 Patriots would have changed the situation dramatically," the President noted.

According to him, Patriot is just an example, there are two or three other types of breakthrough weapons that can ensure "the end of their defense."

"Ukraine does not have this. It means that not everyone needs it, it means that not everything is possible, or it means that it is still ahead. The end of this year will depend on this," Zelenskyy summarized.