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Zelenskyj sees mobilization as a sensitive question

Stalled financial aid and little progress on the counteroffensive: the situation is not easy for Ukraine at the end of the year. Nevertheless, President Zelensky is confident that the army is planning to mobilize hundreds of thousands of new soldiers.

“A difficult year is coming to an end,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj at his annual press conference in Kiev. He answered questions from several hundred journalists for around two hours. Zelensky was asked several times about his assessment of the military situation. He didn’t want to say anything about the plans for 2024 because the counteroffensive last summer was talked about too much. However, new laws on mobilization are currently being intensively discussed in Ukraine.

According to Zelensky, the Ukrainian army has asked for the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to fight against Russia. But preparing new soldiers is an expensive and politically sensitive issue for Ukraine, said Zelensky.

Accordingly, the military leadership requested “450,000 to 500,000” new soldiers. Additional mobilization on this scale would require around 500 billion hryvnia (12.2 billion euros), the president said. However, a final decision has not yet been made; Parliament will first deal with the matter. “Because, firstly, it is a question of people, secondly, it is a question of fairness, it is a question of defense capability and it is a question of finances,” Zelensky explained.

Rest for soldiers who have been fighting so far

The additional forces could not only increase the army’s effectiveness, but also enable the soldiers who have been fighting to have the right to rest and home leave. The Ukrainian president emphasized that this was important to him. For this purpose, a complex plan for possible rotation is being developed.

At the same time, Zelensky rejected the assessment that the war had developed into a stalemate. Russia has not achieved any of its war goals in Ukraine in 2023, he said. Moscow was not able to completely conquer the Ukrainian Donetsk region. Instead, Ukraine largely restored control over the western Black Sea.

However, after its counteroffensive in recent months, Ukraine has made little significant progress against the deeply entrenched Russian units.

Further support for Ukraine

Despite the currently halting Western aid, the Ukrainian president was confident that both the USA and the EU will continue to support the country attacked by Russia in the future. “I am convinced that the United States will not betray us,” he said.

His most recent trips were successful: the head of state announced that Ukraine would receive more “Patriot” air defense systems. “Several new ‘Patriot’ systems will be in Ukraine to protect our country in winter,” Zelensky said. The arms deliveries are a “very important result” of his recent trips abroad.

Zelensky was also optimistic about an EU financial package worth 50 billion euros that is currently blocked by Hungary: “We will find means to preserve these 50 billion.” The Ukrainian president said he wanted to speak to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban about this matter.

Zelenskyj recently visited several Western countries, including the USA, to promote further military and political support for Ukraine. Kiev is currently demanding additional arms supplies from its Western allies, but they are becoming increasingly reluctant.

The war continues

Zelensky rejected the possibility of negotiations with Russia. He sees no request for negotiations from Moscow and does not see anything similar in Russia’s actions. “I only see arrogance and murder in their rhetoric.”

Meanwhile, Zelensky did not want to confirm predictions that the war in his country would continue for a long time. “I don’t think anyone knows.” The duration of the war depends on many factors, he added – especially on the Ukrainians themselves. “If we do not lose our resilience, we are more likely to end the war.”

With information from Andrea Beer, ARD Studio Kiev

Andrea Beer, ARD Kiev, tagesschau, December 19, 2023 10:10 p.m

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