(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the shift in focus to the Israel-Hamas war has slowed deliveries of artillery shells to Kyiv, undermining the war effort as the counteroffensive against Russia grinds to a standstill.
Combatants in the Middle East have sought 155-millimeter shells, a key component to weapons deliveries Ukraine needs to press back Russia’s invasion, the president said. The sudden demand comes at a sensitive moment, as the European Union signals it’s unlikely to fulfill a promise to deliver a million rounds of artillery by March.
“Our supplies have decreased,” Zelenskiy told a group of journalists in his office in Kyiv Thursday. “It is life — and it is normal, as everyone is fighting for survival and we should defend ourselves as well.”
The outbreak of the conflict in the Middle East has raised questions about allies’ ability to remain focused on supporting Ukraine, where a months-long counteroffensive has made little progress in retaking occupied territory. Icy temperatures are now encroaching on the war-battered nation in its 21st month of conflict.
Zelenskiy has spent the week assuring allies that his military is making preparations to take the fight through the winter. A delegation from Kyiv visited Washington this week, where House lawmakers passed a funding bill that doesn’t include aid to Ukraine amid resistance by Republican lawmakers.
“Now I am focused on getting aid from the West,” Zelenskiy said. Their “focus is shifting because of the Middle East — and other reasons. Without the support, we will move backward.”
Russia Seeking ‘Chaos’
US authorities have signaled that deliveries are being disrupted, citing funding delays. The Pentagon said this month that dwindling funds meant a restriction of flows of military assistance to Kyiv. President Joe Biden’s administration has urged Congress to break a deadlock and approve a $61.4 billion request for funds for Ukraine.
Biden and EU leaders have vowed to continue their support, with weapons deliveries and financial assistance. But the campaign against Russian forces, which began in the summer with hopes of dividing more than 400,000 Russian troops on Ukrainian territory, has delivered little progress.
The Ukrainian leader said Moscow is also seeking to sow division in Ukrainian society, by creating “chaos” domestically and ultimately to remove the president.
“Our intelligence has information, which also came from our partners,” Zelenskiy said, describing a disinformation plan known internally as “Maidan 3,” a reference to the central square in Kyiv that was the focal point of uprisings in 2004 and 2014. The latter played a role in toppling Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych.
“Maidan is coup for them, so the operation is understandable,” Zelenskiy said.
The president, who has rejected negotiations with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, said his government won’t swing in favor of anything resembling a frozen conflict.
(Updates with seeking aid from west, Russian operation from fifth paragraph.)
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