Zelensky's plea to thank individual soldiers portends tough battle ahead

Ukrainian service members fire a howitzer near Avdiivka, Ukraine, on May 31.
Ukrainian service members fire a howitzer near Avdiivka, Ukraine, on May 31. Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky used his daily address Saturday to thank troops on the front lines or battling to control the skies above them -- the fighters that would be particularly key in the rumored counteroffensive that Kyiv is expected to launch.

Zelensky typically thanks specific units in his speeches, but yesterday he name-checked more than a dozen individuals, among them commanders, gunners, marines and infantrymen.

"We should all remember that our defense, our active actions, and the independence of Ukraine are not something abstract. These are very particular people, particular actions of particular heroes, thanks to which Ukraine exists and Ukraine will exist," Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian President ended his speech by calling upon all Ukrainians to personally thank servicemen and servicewomen.

Concerns over aerial superiority: Zelensky's address comes amid continuing speculation that Ukraine's much-anticipated counteroffensive, which has seemed imminent for weeks, could be launched in the coming days. The Ukrainian President said Kyiv is ready to carry out the operation in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Saturday.

“I think that, as of today, we are ready to do it. We would like to have certain things, but we can't wait for it for months,” Zelensky said.

Last month, that Ukraine needed a "bit more time," likely to allow for the delivery of more Western military aid -- including much-needed air defense systems.

Zelensky has spent months lobbying Western powers to provide Ukraine with fighter jets and weapons to help control the skies, as they would help limit the number of casualties to Ukrainian fighters during any potential counteroffensive.

In his interview with the Journal, Zelensky acknowledged that Russia retains aerial superiority on the front lines. He said that a lack of protection from Russian air power meant “a large number of soldiers will die."

“Everyone knows perfectly well that any counteroffensive in the world without control in the skies is very dangerous," Zelensky said.

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