In an interview with the Associated Press, Zelensky gave what the media outlet described as a "frank appraisal" of the summer's counteroffensive that resulted in very limited gains and no significant breakthroughs. (Related: Ukrainian frontlines are COLLAPSING, Russian forces ADVANCING on all fronts.)
Since the beginning of the year, a report from the New York Times from late September, right at the tail-end of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, suggests that Ukraine had only gained about 230 square kilometers (89 square miles) of territory back from Russia.
"We wanted faster results. From that perspective, unfortunately, we did not achieve the desired results. And this is a fact," Zelensky admitted.
Zelensky went on to blame his country's failure on Ukraine not getting all of the weapons it was seeking from its Western allies quickly enough. He added that limits in the size of the Armed Forces of Ukraine also precluded it from conducting bigger and more decisive advances.
"There is not enough power to achieve the desired results faster. But this does not mean that we should give up, that we have to surrender," said Zelensky. "We are confident in our actions. We fight for what is ours."
"We are not backing down," he added, claiming that his country is persevering despite being in conflict with "the second [best] army in the world."
Furthermore, Zelensky claims that Ukraine has successfully diminished the strength of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, following drone and missile attacks that were able to penetrate Russian air defenses in Crimea, which Ukraine claims as part of its sovereign territory.
Zelensky warned that Russia's special military operation in Ukraine is entering a "new phase" as winter approaches, and the Ukrainian army will respond accordingly by going on the defensive.
"We have a new phase of war, and that is a fact," said Zelensky. "Winter as a whole is a new phase of war."
Ukrainian forces are already gearing themselves up for an expected uptick in Russian strikes against military and other essential infrastructure in what would be a repeat of Moscow's tactics to hammer Ukraine in the previous winter.
Some of these tactics are already being deployed against Ukraine. On Nov. 25, Russia launched a record number of drones to strike at Ukrainian targets, primarily in Kyiv. At least 75 drones, mostly the Iranian-made Shahed attack drones, were spotted, with many being shot down by Ukrainian air defenses.
"That is why a winter war is difficult," Zelensky said of Russia's strategy for winter fighting and of the troubling precedent the mass drone assault on Kyiv sets for the months to come.
While Ukraine hunkers down, Zelensky is focused on the next stage of the country's strategy: Boosting domestic arms production.
A sizeable chunk of Ukraine's budget – a significant portion of which is supplied by the taxpayers of its Western allies – is allocated to investing in its fledgling domestic arms industry.
Zelensky admits that current output is still far from enough to turn the tide of the war, but he adds that if Ukraine's Western allies – especially the United States – offer favorable loans and contracts then the country may be able to meet its manufacturing goals quickly.
"This is the way out," said Zelensky, who claims that a military self-sufficient Ukraine is a terrifying prospect for Moscow. "Give us these opportunities and we will build… Whatever effort and time it will take, we will do it, and we will do it very quickly."
Watch this clip from Southfront Press reporting on Zelensky acknowledging the defeat of the counteroffensive as Ukrainian forces go on the defensive.