By Ryan King
Ukraine has retaken more than half of the territory Russia captured during its initial invasion, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday.
But Blinken warned that despite Ukraine’s string of successes in repelling its Russian invaders, the country still has a “very hard fight” ahead of it.
“It’s already taken back about 50% of what was initially seized. Now they’re in a very hard fight to take back more,” Blinken stressed during an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
“These are still relatively early days in the counteroffensive. It is tough, the Russians put in place strong defenses,” the top diplomat said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday pinned blame for the country’s delay in mounting its counteroffensive on a lack of munitions supplies.
“We did have plans to start it in spring. But we didn’t because frankly, we had not enough munitions and armaments and not enough brigades properly trained in these weapons,” Zelensky told CNN.
The US has already given tens of billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine since the war broke out in February 2022.
US aid includes the controversial recent decision to funnel cluster munitions to Ukraine.
Some US allies such as the United Kingdom have expressed apprehension about sending such cluster weapons because of the grave dangers they can pose to civilians, but President Biden stressed the importance of aiding Ukraine, including with the munitions.
When pressed about Ukrainians’ concerns that the US has been slow-walking aid to the war-torn nation, Blinken underscored that he understands their perspective.
“If I were in the shoes of our Ukrainian friends and partners, I’d probably be saying exactly the same thing,” he said.
“There are 50 some odd countries in this coalition in support of Ukraine. [US Secretary of Defense] Lloyd Austin has been leading this process on the military side. And different countries do different things at different times,” Blinken said.
Blinken also indicated that he believes Ukraine will eventually get the US-made F-16 fighter jets it has long sought.
“This is what we are working on now because it’s not enough to give them F-16s, they’ve got to be trained,” Blinken said.
Nearly a dozen nations are planning to begin training Ukrainians to fly the F-16 fighter jets next month, Reuters reported.
The Biden administration last week announced an additional $1.3 billion package of long-term air defense and munitions aid to Ukraine.