Ukrainian president says counteroffensive won’t aim to attack Russian territory

Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, rigth, and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy address a media conference at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, May 14, 2023. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Berlin early Sunday for talks with German leaders about further arms deliveries to help his country fend off the Russian invasion and rebuild what's been destroyed by more than a year of devastating conflict. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

BERLIN — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that his country is preparing a counteroffensive designed to liberate areas occupied by Russia, not to attack Russian territory. 

Speaking during a news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s goal is to free the territories within its internationally recognized borders. 

The Washington Post cited previously undisclosed documents from a trove of U.S. intelligence leaks suggesting that Zelenskyy has considered trying to capture areas in Russia proper for possible use as bargaining chips in peace negotiations to end the war launched by Moscow in February 2022. This would put him at odds with Western governments that have insisted that weapons they provide must not be used to attack targets in Russia. 

Asked about the report, Zelenskyy said: “We don’t attack Russian territory, we liberate our own legitimate territory.” 

“We have neither the time nor the strength (to attack Russia),” he said, according to an official interpreter. “And we also don’t have weapons to spare, with which we could do this.” 

After initially hesitating to provide lethal weapons, Germany has become one of the biggest suppliers of arms to Ukraine, including Leopard 1 and 2 battle tanks, and the sophisticated IRIS-T SLM air-defense system.  

Zelenskyy said one reason for his latest visit to allied capitals was to forge a “fighter jet coalition” that would provide Ukraine with the combat planes it needs to counter Russia’s air dominance.