Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Saturday called on the US and its allies to deliver heavier weaponry to Ukraine as the Russian military shifts its campaign to focus on the east and south of Ukraine.
"After the rapid retreat of the Russians from Kyiv and Chernihiv, it is clear that Russia has prioritized another tactic — to move east/south, to control large occupied territories (not only in Donetsk and Luhansk regions) and to gain a strong foothold there," he said.
The Russian military said the "first stage" of its invasion of Ukraine was complete and that it would withdraw forces from around Kyiv and Chernihiv to concentrate on the Donbas region in the country's east. Russia's announcement of that new phase in part may provide political cover for the Russian military, explaining heavy setbacks in the battles around Kyiv, but Ukrainian officials have also reported a ramping up of military activity and shelling in the Donbas by Russian forces.
Podolyak alluded to the expectation from US and Western officials that Ukraine might need to prepare for partisan warfare in the event of Russian invasion and the fall of the Ukrainian capital.
"Our partners must finally understand that the 'Afghanization' they want and the long-lasting exhausting conflict for Russia will not happen," Podolyak said. "Russia will leave all Ukrainian territories except the south and east. And will try to dig in there, put in air defense and sharply reduce the loss of its equipment and personnel."
The US, the UK and other NATO allies provided anti-tank weapons and man-portable air defenses. Podolyak said Ukraine needed heavier weaponry.
"'Afghanization' is when there is a strong guerrilla resistance across the country that inflicts heavy losses on the aggressor for many months or even years and thus significantly weakens the power of the occupier's army," he said. "Such actions took place during the Soviet Union's attempt to control Afghanistan: Afghan guerrillas destroyed and weakened the Soviet occupiers for years. As a result, weakened Russia as a whole."
Podolyak continued, "Some of our partners believed that something similar could happen in today's Ukraine. The Russians think otherwise. They have established in the east and south and are dictating harsh conditions. So we definitely can't do without heavy weapons if we want to unblock the east and Kherson and send [back] the Russians as far as possible."