ODESA, Ukraine—Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was now ready to launch a long-awaited counteroffensive but tempered a forecast of success with a warning: It could take some time and come at a heavy cost. “We strongly believe that we will succeed,” Zelensky said in an interview in this southern port city as his country’s military girded for what could be one of the war’s most consequential phases as it aims to retake territory occupied by Russia. “I don’t know how long it will take,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “To be honest, it can go a variety of ways, completely different. But we are going to do it, and we are ready.”
In a wide-ranging, hourlong discussion, Zelensky, 45 years old, said he feared U.S. elections next year could bring a less-supportive administration to power and called on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to offer a clear path to membership for Kyiv. He also urged China to try to restrain Russia and said Ukraine urgently needed more U.S.-made Patriot missile-defense systems to protect citizens from aerial bombardments and to shield front-line troops.
Zelensky acknowledged Russian air superiority on the front lines and said a lack of protection from Russian air power means “a large number of soldiers will die” in the counteroffensive. Ukraine would have liked to have more Western-supplied weapons for the coming campaign, he said. Still, Ukraine is ready to move. “We would like to have certain things, but we can’t wait for months,” he said.
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