President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky gives an interview to James Jordan. November 30, 2023. AP

President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky gives an interview to James Jordan. November 30, 2023. AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has declared that the war with Russia has entered a new phase, highlighting the challenges posed by the upcoming winter. In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press in Kharkiv, Zelenskyy expressed satisfaction with the ongoing fight against the Russian military, despite enduring setbacks and shortages of weapons and ground forces.

Acknowledging the limitations of the summer counteroffensive, Zelenskyy emphasized Ukraine's determination not to give up in the face of losses and incomplete weapon deliveries from allies. Concerns were raised about the Israel-Hamas conflict potentially diverting attention and resources from Ukraine's struggle, especially during a U.S. election year.

The highly anticipated counteroffensive, backed by Western military aid, fell short of expectations, leading to worries about future assistance and dwindling ammunition stockpiles. As winter approaches, Ukraine faces additional challenges, including freezing temperatures, exposed soldiers, and the renewed threat of Russian aerial assaults targeting infrastructure and civilians.

Zelenskyy highlighted some positive outcomes, including incremental territorial gains, the weakening of Moscow's Black Sea Fleet, and a functioning grain corridor for safe exports. Looking ahead, Zelenskyy emphasized the need to boost domestic arms production and sought favorable loans and contracts from Western allies, particularly the U.S.

Expressing concerns about the Middle East conflict overshadowing Ukraine's plight, Zelenskyy stressed the importance of maintaining global attention and assistance. He warned that a shift in focus could lead to less economic and military support, urging continued international engagement.

Amid skepticism in the U.S. about supporting Ukraine, Zelenskyy acknowledged the challenges posed by upcoming U.S. elections. He bluntly stated that the choice of Americans is theirs, but he underscored the interconnectedness of aiding Ukraine and preventing potential Russian aggression against NATO countries.

Addressing internal concerns, Zelenskyy initiated a government shakeup to combat corruption and improve efficiency. Despite static battle lines, he emphasized the absence of pressure from allies to negotiate a peace deal with Russia. Ukraine aims to involve multiple countries in a peace formula to politically isolate Russia.

The ongoing war has disrupted plans for a presidential election in Ukraine, originally scheduled for March. Zelenskyy expressed readiness for an election, but public sentiment leans toward deeming it dangerous and meaningless amidst ongoing conflict.

With Ukraine's economy restructuring around the prolonged war, Zelenskyy acknowledged the immense difficulty of his role but expressed a commitment to stay in office, deeming it unfair and demotivating to consider otherwise.

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