President Volodymyr Zelensky is deeply concerned over ‘Ukraine fatigue’ taking over the West, and especially among the populace of his government’s biggest supporter, funder, and weapons supplier – the United States.
“The United States really understands that if they stop helping us, we will not win,” he told the AP in a fresh interview published Wednesday. Waning support has been especially noticeable among Republican voters, according to recent polls, and as we recently reviewed in an article, “The Trump, DeSantis, Tucker Effect: New Polls Show Republicans Increasingly Done With Ukraine.”
He issued the words specifically in reference to the still raging battle for the strategic city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. Russian forces have it nearly surrounded, even as Kiev has continued to throw additional manpower and weaponry into the city’s defense at a huge cost and amid mounting casualties.
Zelensky described that the capture of Bakhmut will mean that Putin will smell weakness. According to the Ukrainian leader’s words:
Speaking with The Associated Press, Zelenskyy said that if Bakhmut were to fall, Putin could “sell this victory to the West, to his society, to China, to Iran,” as leverage to push for a ceasefire deal that would see Ukraine agree to give up territory.
“If he will feel some blood — smell that we are weak — he will push, push, push,” Zelensky continued.
“Our society will feel tired” if the Russians gain victory in Bakhmut, he said. “Our society will push me to have compromise with them.” Implicit in these words are perhaps a first-time admission that significant sectors of the Ukrainian population are ready for compromise and peaceful negotiations to end the war.
And tellingly, CBS commentary on the AP interview included the following observation: “He appeared acutely aware of the risk that his country could see its vital support from the U.S. and Europe start to slip away as the 13-month war grinds on.”
Zelensky: “The loss of Bakhmut would mean a political defeat, could lead to a general defeat in conflict.”
If Bakhmut fell to Russian forces, their president, Vladimir Putin, would “sell this victory to the West, to his society, to China, to Iran,” Zelensky said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. #StandWithUkraine https://t.co/mAj6Y3wy4z pic.twitter.com/BW99uvD5aJ
— Dénes Törteli 🇪🇺🇭🇺🇺🇦 (@DenesTorteli) March 29, 2023
The bleak assessment comes the same week that Ukraine received 18 German Leopard II tanks at its border, and they are presumably being rushed to the front lines. About 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles were also delivered.
Meanwhile, Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin described on Wednesday that his forces and their equipment have been “badly damaged” in the campaign to take Bakhmut. But the admission of a very tough fight was accompanied by his pointing out that Ukraine’s forces have suffered worse. “The battle for Bakhmut today has already practically destroyed the Ukrainian army, and unfortunately, it has also badly damaged the Wagner Private Military Company,” he said in an audio message, as reported in Reuters.
There are currently widespread reports that Russian forces now hold at least 65% of the city, and have it surrounded from most sides. Some analysts have estimated that more is controlled by pro-Kremlin forces, and Wagner has once again taken a lead role, just as it did in nearby Soledar.