US election adds 'pressure' to secure counter offensive victory, says Ukraine ambassador

Vadym Prystaiko joined ITV News' Julie Etchingham in the studio to discuss Ukraine's counter offensive

The Ukrainian ambassador to the UK has spoken of the intense "expectations" for his country's looming counter offensive against Russia, as the western world waits for what will be a decisive moment in the war.

Vadym Prystaiko joined ITV News' Julie Etchingham in the studio to discuss what only President Zelenskyy and his generals will know - when exactly the much anticipated spring counter offensive will begin.

It could mark a turning point for Ukraine, as the top diplomat also noted the "pressure" on their soldiers to secure victory before the US election could cost them crucial support, and access to vital military equipment.

Zelenskyy has been visiting senior political figures across Europe in a bid to secure fighter jets, missiles, and powerful aid before they launch the attack.

It includes a recent trip to see Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, where the UK agreed to give Ukraine long-range, high-precision Storm Shadow missiles, and train Ukrainian pilots.

“Too much pressure, too much expectations to manage them," Mr Prystaiko said when asked about how soon the counter offensive could kick off following support from the West.

"It was painful sometimes for the government to take this decisive decision to help us, and then to get enough ammunition and everything in their stockpiles… we see now it is almost depleted.

Ukrainian ambassador to the UK on the US election and what it could mean for the war

"If we manage to show that actually all the investments were right, and in the right people at the right time, that I hope will allow us to move another step.

"But that’s a very important moment. That’s why we are preparing and that’s why the President’s making all these trips around Europe - to get more and more support.”

However, with the US holding back on its promise of fighter jets, questions have been raised over whether the counter offensive could be successful without their help.

"I guess that sooner or later their position will change," Mr Prystaiko said.

"We appreciate the United States is doing the most, they understand how fast and what should come.

"Sometimes they are reluctant on the geo-political reasons, they have (the) big picture in mind."

Mr Prystaiko acknowledged that whoever follows President Biden in the White House - potentially Donald Trump - may not be as supportive as their predecessor.

"One of the weaknesses of democracy is the cyclical nature, and we have the same… we have to take into account this cycle in politics," he said.

Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. Credit: PA

"We understand that the time might come that we won’t enjoy such a great support, that is why we have to put all the pressure right now.

"That is why we are asking our friends, ‘can you bring everything to the table? Allow us to have a decisive push this time.’"

One frustration for the Ukrainian military awaiting the fighter jets has been the renewed discussion of sanctions being put back on the table.

Sanctions are now playing "an auxiliary role," Mr Prystaiko said, though they are a "civilised in the way of waging the war".

"It's an economic war, its not just killing people," he added.

"But over this year we failed to bring the sanctions to the level when the Russians would understand, and they decided to go all in with the military campaign."

Storm shadow missiles will be supplied to Ukraine from the UK. Credit: MOD

So far Ukraine has kept by its decision to not publish casualty figures from the war.

"Internally, we understand how many of us are already killed and lost," he said.

"We understand that more than 8 million are outside of the nation, so we understand the losses.

"We understand that it will be extremely difficult to fight with a nation that is 16 times bigger than us.

"But we are determined to do it and we are not going to tell Russians how painful it is - they know it is painful and we know it is painful.

"We just hope that their mothers will cherish the lives of their sons as ours."

With a harsh summer of bloodshed ahead, the world waits with baited breath to find out the fate of the counter offensive.

"I know that it can be a very terrible summer and the price is terrible," Mr Prystaiko said.

"Maybe something will finally happen with Russian society and they will understand that they are killing their brothers and sisters.

"But what we would also think is if we stop somewhere, if we don’t find enough strength, courage, and energy to break through all of this, then what will happen to us?

"What we have to do is find how we win this time, and how we rebuild," he added.

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