For many Ukrainians, a recent sober assessment of the battlefield by Ukraine’s military chief was not a surprise. It’s what they have been hearing in conversations with friends, seeing on social media and experiencing personally on the frontlines as Russia’s war against their country drags on.
Commander in Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valery Zaluzhny said in an interview with the Economist magazine this week that “there will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough” and each day that passes gives the Russians an advantage.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russia is stalled as hard winter looms. Russia still occupies nearly a fifth of Ukraine and front lines are static for the most part while both sides continue to churn through soldiers.
Ukraine launched a counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion in June, but it has so far failed to gain the momentum needed to turn the tide of the war in Kyiv’s favor.
On Saturday, Igor Zhovka, deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, slammed Zaluzhny for his comments.
“I am sure that everything has been carefully read, noted down and conclusions drawn” by the Russians, he said, adding that he has received calls from counterparts in partner countries “in a panic” asking if the war really is at a stalemate. “Is this the effect we wanted to achieve with this article?” Zhovka said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky disagreed with Zaluzhny’s assessment. “This is not a stalemate. I emphasize this once again. We have already talked about this. This is not some kind of news,” he said in a news conference Saturday with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Zaluzhny’s straight-to-the-point view offered a rare alternative to the hopeful messages that have become commonplace from Ukraine’s political leadership. Almost every night, Zelensky appeals to the public to keep believing in the country’s potential victory.
But for many Ukrainians, that goal seems elusive for now.
CNN spoke to Ukrainians about the potential for a prolonged war and the hope they still have as the conflict reaches what Zaluzhny called a “stalemate.”