President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said he had warned the United States and other Western nations that the counteroffensive would go slowly the longer it took allies to deliver the promised weapons and ammunition needed for the mission.
In an interview with CNN broadcast on Wednesday evening, Mr. Zelensky said Ukraine had wanted to start the military campaign sooner but needed to wait for the advanced weaponry.
“I’m grateful to the U.S. as the leaders of our support, but I told them, as well as the European leaders, that we would like to start our counteroffensive earlier, and we need all the weapons and matériel for that,” he said through an interpreter.
“Why? Simply because if we start later, it will go slower.”
The slow progress has been a common refrain from allies and pro-Russian military bloggers assessing the counteroffensive, which has encountered extensive Russian defenses.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the Ukrainian troops were “advancing steadily, deliberately.”
“Slow advance is very deliberate,” the general added in remarks to the National Press Club in Washington on Friday.
He said the fact that the long-awaited push to recapture Russian-occupied territory was not advancing as rapidly as many experts had predicted did not surprise him.
“It’s going to be very long, and it’s going to be very, very bloody, and no one should have any illusions about any of that,” General Milley said. “Ukrainian soldiers are assaulting through minefields and in the trenches, and this is literally a fight for their life. So, yes, sure, it goes a little slow, but that is part of the nature of war.”
Ukraine has yet to commit the bulk of its reserves, including troops trained in Europe over the winter and spring, and equipped with weaponry from NATO countries, meaning it can bring still more force to bear.
In the CNN interview, Mr. Zelensky made a familiar plea for even more advanced weapons, and for American-made F-16 fighter jets.
“In some directions we cannot even think of starting” the counteroffensive, he said, “as we don’t have the relevant weapons. And throwing our people to be killed by Russian long-range weapons would be simply inhumane.”
Eric Schmitt and Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting.