Zelenskyy canceled all his foreign trips, a sign things are critically bad for Ukraine right now

  • Ukraine's president abruptly canceled foreign trips in the face of critical threats to his country.

  • Russia's new assault on the Kharkiv region has put further strains on Ukraine's defenses.

  • The situation could become desperate — at least until Western aid arrives.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has postponed all of his upcoming international trips, in a further sign that Ukraine is at a critical moment of jeopardy in the war with Russia.

Zelenskyy's press secretary, Sergii Nykyforov, made the announcement in a Facebook post on Wednesday, saying new dates would be worked out in the future.

Nykyforov did not provide any reason for the postponements, but unnamed diplomatic sources told Spanish news agency EFE that arrangements to meet King Felipe VI of Spain had been canceled due to the complexities of Ukraine's military situation on the front.

Zelenskyy had also been due to visit Portugal, the outlet reported.

The situation for Ukraine right now appears bleak.

In a comment piece for The Telegraph on Wednesday, former British tank regiment commander Hamish de Bretton Gordon said that Russia could defeat Ukraine within a matter of months.

"In the worst case scenario, Russia could make significant gains this summer and terminally unsettle Ukraine's defense," he wrote.

Zelenskyy's hasty travel cancellations only point to the seriousness of the situation, he added.

De Bretton Gordon blamed the US and NATO's "indecision and procrastination" for emboldening Russian President Vladimir Putin in his offensive.

For months, Ukraine has defended 620 miles of front line on what Institute for the Study of War analyst George Barros told Business Insider in April is a "starvation diet" of military aid.

Ukrainian rear defensive lines are thinned almost to nonexistence in some parts of the Donetsk frontline hotspots of Avdiivka and Chasiv Yar, the Associated Press reported earlier this month.

This has given Russian forces the chance to make small but steady gains.

And Russia's newest push — in the northern region of Kharkiv — adds a new headache for Ukraine.

"All of our forces are either here or in Chasiv Yar," Ukraine's head of military intelligence, Kyryo Budanov, told The New York Times this week of the Kharkiv offensive.

"I've used everything we have," he added. "Unfortunately, we don't have anyone else in the reserves."

Earlier this week, a Ukrainian commander told the BBC that key fortifications had been missing in the Kharkiv town of Vovchansk, and blamed the shortfall on negligence or corruption. "The Russians just walked in," he said.

Vovchansk is not far from the border with Russia and is about 25 miles from Kharkiv city's outer limits.

It's one of 30 settlements that have seen heavy bombardment by Russian forces, Kharkiv Governor Oleh Syniehubov said on Monday. More than 5,700 civilians have been evacuated from the region, he added.

Zelenskyy wrote on social media on Thursday that he had sat down with his commanders to discuss the region's situation — described as extremely difficult — which he nonetheless said Ukrainian forces had begun to stabilize.

The Institute for the Study of War earlier assessed that Russia would need a significantly larger force to take Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, and that the offensive there may simply be a way to draw Ukrainian capabilities away from their positions in the east.

Holding on until Western aid comes

Meanwhile, chronic delays in Western support has left Ukraine badly under-supplied in ammunition.

Months of prevarication in Ukraine over the passing of a new conscription law has also thinned out its fighters.

Unable to move aggressively on the front line in recent months, Ukraine has had to "think in more 3D terms about the battle space," RAND analyst Ann Marie Dailey earlier told BI.

A ferocious drone strike campaign — largely conducted with a homegrown device — has been waged on Russian oil refineries since the start of the year, and shows signs of pressuring the country's oil economy.

Ukraine has also seen success in subduing Russia's once-feared Black Sea Fleet with drone and cruise missile strikes.

But these successes have little immediate, direct impact back on the front.

The current situation has led to increased calls for Ukraine's allies to contemplate crossing long-held red lines.

Ukrainian officials have renewed their pleas to be allowed to use US-supplied weapons on Russian soil, saying they had watched helplessly without being able to strike when Russian forces massed at the border for their Kharkiv advance, Politico reported.

And some observers are echoing French President Emmanuel Macron's assertion that NATO countries should reconsider their hardline stance against the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine, even if it's simply to dent Putin's confidence.

"Too many Western leaders have ruled this out," de Bretton Gordon wrote.

This critical moment for Ukraine may also be short-lived.

US officials, speaking anonymously to The New York Times, said that once the US military aid package starts to filter through — estimated at around July — it's possible Ukraine will be able to reverse some of Russia's gains.

"This year represents a window of opportunity for Russia," military analyst Michael Kofman told the Times.

"But if the Russian military is not able to turn these advantages into battlefield gains and generate momentum, there's a fair chance that this window will begin to close as we enter 2025."

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