The Russian army was “very difficult to drive out of Ukraine” this year.

The Russian army was “very difficult to drive out of Ukraine” this year.

It will be “very difficult” to expel the Russian army from Ukrainian territory by the end of the year, the US chief of staff said on Friday during a press conference at the US base in Ramstein, Germany.

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“From a military point of view, I still maintain that it will be very difficult to expel Russian forces from all occupied territories of Ukraine,” General Mark Milley said after a meeting of allied countries on military support in Kyiv. “That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. But it’s going to be very, very difficult,” he said.

It is also quite possible “that the Ukrainians will carry out a significant offensive (…) in order to liberate as much territory as possible,” added the general. But “it will depend on the delivery of equipment and training”.

The United States expects a counteroffensive by Ukrainian troops in the spring, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters, stressing that the allies would help Kyiv prepare.

For supplies, “we have a window until the spring … once they start their operation, their counter-offensive,” he said. “It’s not long now and we need to bring the right skills together,” he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zekensky on Friday urged westerners to speed up shipments of heavy weapons, including tanks.

However, at the end of the Ramstein meeting, no decision was made on the next shipment of German-made Leopard tanks, which Ukraine had been urging.

The question was “discussed” but “not decided,” said the new German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius.