Zelenskiy assures Ukrainians of victory with US aid in balance

AFP

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Ukrainians on Wednesday that Kyiv would defeat Russia and win a fair peace "against all odds" as the future of vital US military and financial aid hung in the balance.

He delivered his defiant message in an unusual early-morning video that showed him walking through Kyiv on his way to pay his respects to fallen soldiers on what Ukraine marks as Armed Forces Day.

"It has been difficult, but we have persevered," said Zelenskiy, who filmed himself on a mobile phone as he walked from his office down the central Hrushevskoho street towards central Kyiv's "wall of remembrance".

"It is not easy now, but we are moving. No matter how difficult it is, we will get there. To our borders, to our people. To our peace. Fair peace. Free peace. Against all odds."

His remarks appeared to respond to uncertainty over the future of a $60-billion aid package being debated in US Congress that has been stuck for weeks.

On Tuesday, Zelenskiy cancelled plans to address US lawmakers to appeal directly for the aid as Congress wrangles over Republican demands to tie the assistance to a revamp of US immigration and border policies.

Kyiv has relied heavily on assistance from its Western allies against Russia's much bigger army in the biggest war in Europe since World War II, now in its 22nd month.

A proposed European Union military aid package has also run into resistance from some members of the bloc.

BIG RISK

In one of the bleakest assessments yet by a senior Ukrainian official, Zelenskiy's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said on Tuesday that postponement of the US aid created a "big risk" that Ukraine would lose the war.

Moscow controls about 17.5 per cent of Ukraine's territory, and Ukrainian forces are now facing a new Russian offensive on the eastern front, with especially fierce fighting around the towns of Avdiivka and Mariinka.

In his video, Zelenskiy said Ukraine had no alternative except to liberate its territories occupied by Russia.

"These are our lands. These are our people. Is there an alternative? No. Nine years and 651 days of the war are behind us. Victory is ahead. And how else? Could there be an alternative? We all know: no," Zelenskiy said.

He was later shown paying his respects at the wall of remembrance created in 2014 to commemorate victims of Russia's war against Ukraine. Moscow seized the peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backed a militant insurgency in the east.

While the original panels were neatly structured with orderly military pictures, that changed after Russia's invasion in February 2022. Grieving families placed hundreds of personal photos there.

Zelenskiy said the wall would help strengthen Ukrainians' spirit against "fear, mistrust, despair, discord and thoughts of giving up".

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