Zelensky Vows Donbas Will Be Ukrainian Again: 'We Will Rebuild Every Town'

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the Donbas region will be "Ukrainian again," although he admitted the situation in the eastern region of his country was "difficult."

In his nightly address on Friday, Zelensky said that Russian forces had concentrated their artillery and reserves in the region and that there have been "missile strikes and aircraft attacks—everything."

"We are protecting our land in the way that our current defense resources allow," he said according to a transcript on the presidential website. "We are doing everything to increase them. And we will increase them."

"If the occupiers think that Lyman or Severodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong," he said, referring to the cities that Russian forces are trying to surround. "Donbas will be Ukrainian."

"Even if Russia brings destruction and suffering everywhere there, we will still rebuild every city and every community," he said, "there is and will be no alternative to our Ukrainian flags there."

His comments came as the U.S. Defense Department said on Friday that Russia had an enormous advantage in troop numbers but was only making slow progress.

An unnamed senior U.S. defense official said that Russian forces were using "fairly doctrinal" tactics in which they use artillery fire in advance and then moving units only after "they feel like they softened up the target enough."

However, the official said that Russian forces have "the numbers on their side, so that's why I think we continue to see this incremental progress."

On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Ukraine needed long-range multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS), telling Bloomberg that the Russian military "is continuing to chew through ground in Donbas."

Ukraine has pleaded for the MLRS weaponry which has a range of up to 300 miles, much further than the 25-mile range of the the U.S.-supplied M777 howitzers, which are being used on Ukraine's eastern front.

The United States is said to be leaning towards providing the weapons to Ukraine as part of a military package that might be agreed next week, CNN reported, although a decision has "not been made yet," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

It comes amid concerns in the U.S that the weapon supply could lead to an escalation with Russia, whose Kremlin-controlled media have condemned plans to supply the weapons.

"If the Americans do that, they will clearly be crossing a red line," said 60 Minutes anchor Olga Skabeyeva," on the Kremlin-controlled channel Russia-1. She said this would "provoke a very harsh response from Russia."

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told Newsweek on Friday there was no further information about providing the weapons.

The spokesperson said in a statement that given the lack of any diplomatic breakthrough, "we are focused on strengthening Ukraine's hand as much as possible on the battlefield so that when the time comes, Ukraine has as much leverage as possible at the negotiating table."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pictured in Kyiv on April 23, 2022. He said on May 27, 2022 that the eastern Donbas region will be "Ukrainian again." John Moore/Getty Images