Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Volodymyr ZelenskyyREUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday that the notion that Russia was winning the nearly two-year-old war was only a "feeling" and that Moscow was still suffering heavy battlefield losses.

Speaking in an interview with the Economist and quoted by Reuters, Zelenskyy provided no substantiation of his allegation on Russian losses. He said Ukraine's priorities in 2024 included hitting Russia's strengths in Crimea to reduce the number of attacks on his country as well as protecting key cities on the eastern front.

"Maybe we did not succeed (in 2023) as the world wanted. Maybe not everything is as fast as someone imagined," he acknowledged, but added that the notion that Russian forces were winning was a mere "feeling," citing heavy Russian losses in the besieged eastern town of Avdiivka, which he visited last week.

"Thousands, thousands of killed Russian soldiers, nobody even took them away," said Zelenskyy.

In contrast, he hailed the "huge result" of Ukrainian forces breaking through a Russian Black Sea blockade, enabling grain exports by way of a new route along its southern coast.

If Ukraine lost the war, he said, Russia would be encouraged to advance against other countries because "Putin feels weakness like an animal, because he is an animal. He senses blood, he senses his strength."

Zelenskyy rejected any notion that Moscow was interested in talks, pointing to Moscow's repeated waves of aerial strikes.

Any Russian call for talks, he stated, "is not because they are righteous men, but because they don’t have enough missiles, ammunition, or prepared troops. They need this pause. Restore all their strength. And then with all their strength, turn the page of this war."