Zelensky Says More Counteroffensives Planned as They Regain Territory

As Ukraine undertakes a widely reported counteroffensive against Russian troops in the south of the country, President Volodymr Zelensky hinted at other such operations taking place.

Zelensky was asked by ABC News if Kyiv's forces had gained any ground in the counteroffensive focused on the Kherson region and its capital of the same name, which was seized early on in the war.

"It's a very difficult war and it's a very difficult task," he told World News Tonight anchor David Muir. "We will regain our territory. We cannot freeze this conflict now. The society's very decisive in what we need.

"This task is difficult, doesn't totally depend on us, but I'm sure that is what will happen. It's only a matter of time."

"I won't say that it's only a counter-offensive in Kherson, there is is a direction or directions, plural, and we have to move forward."

When Muir asked for clarification on whether Ukraine's operation in Kherson was not the only one, Zelensky replied: "I can't discuss details of any military actions. I think that information silence is important. So I want the enemy to get some surprises from us."

Ukrainian officials have been tight-lipped about operational details, but the U.S. think tank, the Institute for the Study of War [ISW] said that the Ukrainian counteroffensive "is making verifiable progress in the south and the east." It tweeted that Ukrainian forces were advancing along several axes in the western Kherson region and had "secured territory across the Siverskyi Donets River," in the Donetsk region.

Senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security [CNAS] Michael Kofman told the War on the Rocks podcast last week it was difficult to tell how much progress Ukrainian forces had made in the early days of the counteroffensive, but that they had appeared to have captured several towns. "Expectations probably run high but should be kept reasonable," Kofman said.

Also in the ABC interview that will be broadcast in full on Tuesday, Zelensky said he believed Vladimir Putin was a war criminal and should be prosecuted as one.

It comes after President Joe Biden said on Monday that Russia should not be designated a state sponsor of terrorism, a label that Ukraine has pushed for.

"It's not a war, it's pure and clear terrorism, which Russia is doing against our nation and occupation of our land," Zelensky said, "so, we cannot have any compromises with terrorists."

"As any civilized person, any civilized man, I think that those responsible should not just go to hell, no, they should have fair trials, fair, independent trials," Zelensky said.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian foreign ministry for comment.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on August 24, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. He told ABC News that Ukraine was planning more counteroffensives to turn the tide in the war against Russia. Alexey Furman/Getty Images