Ukraine is ready to launch a long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia but fears large casualties due to Moscow's superior air power, President Volodydmyr Zelensky said in comments published Saturday.
Ukraine has said it is preparing for a major offensive against Moscow's occupation forces for months, but Mr. Zelensky has repeatedly warned that Kyiv needs more time and weapons.
"A large number of soldiers will die" if Kyiv is not given the weapons to counter Russian air power, Mr. Zelensky said.
While Kyiv was "ready" for the offensive and believes it will succeed, the Ukrainian leader said it would be "dangerous" to launch without more Western help to counter Russian air attacks.
He spoke as the capital was this week hit by a series of aerial assaults, including a rare daytime one.
"Everyone knows perfectly well that any counteroffensive without air superiority is very dangerous," Mr. Zelensky said.
"Imagine the feeling of a soldier who knows that he doesn't have a roof and he doesn't understand why neighbouring countries have one."
He said there was only one weapon — the U.S.-made Patriot air defence system — that could protect Ukrainian skies, asking for more to be delivered to Kyiv.
"The reality is 50 Patriots will, for the most part, prevent people from dying."
He said his enemy Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched the invasion of Ukraine in February last year, "should be afraid of the strength of the world."
He called him a "cornered animal, he is afraid to lose his life".
Mr. Zelensky also expressed frustration at Western leaders ahead of the NATO summit in Vilnius next month, as pressure has grown to grant Ukraine a roadmap for joining the alliance.
"If we are not acknowledged and given a signal in Vilnius, I believe there is no point for Ukraine to be at this summit," he said.
He acknowledged that Kyiv understood it was not possible to join NATO during the Russian invasion.
The U.S. newspaper also showed footage of Mr. Zelensky in a white gown visiting a wounded soldier in hospital who had lost both hands.