Zelensky pushes for more weapons to fight Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday renewed calls for Western nations to send more heavy weapons to his country, arguing it is the only way to stop Russian forces from turning the war into “an endless bloodbath.”
“Ukraine needs weapons supplies. We need heavy artillery, armored vehicles, air defense systems and combat aircraft. Anything to repel Russian forces and stop their war crimes,” Zelensky said in a video message posted to Twitter on Wednesday.
“Western nations have everything to make it happen. The final victory over the tyranny and the number of people saved depends on them,” he added
Since the war began on Feb. 24, Ukrainian officials have steadily applied pressure to the U.S. and NATO to send heavy-duty weapons, including tanks, aircraft and missile defense systems to beat back the Kremlin’s troops.
Zelensky has intensified the pleas ahead of an expected renewed Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.
The United States has sent $1.7 billion in lethal aid since the start of the invasion, though those weapons have largely consisted of anti-aircraft and anti-armor munitions, drones, rocket systems and ammunition.
In a possible shift to bigger weapons, however, the Biden administration on Wednesday is expected to announce a $750 million package that will include Howitzer artillery.
Prior to this month, the administration had been hesitant to help Ukraine obtain larger weapons systems, fearful such moves could draw Russia’s ire and escalate the conflict.
Last month, after Poland offered to transfer its entire fleet of Soviet-designed MiG-29 fighter jets to a U.S. base in Germany to then be sent on to Ukraine, Washington balked at the idea and said it was not “tenable.”
In his video, Zelensky pointed to the images that have come out of Bucha and Mariupol as evidence of what Russia intends to do to “the whole world,” saying this potential future can only be stopped by “force of arms.”
With the Kremlin now expected to heavily attack Ukraine’s Donbas region, Ukraine’s messaging appears to have Western nations shifting their stance.
“There has been a sense of urgency,” a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Wednesday when asked about Zelensky’s video. “Clearly we understand as the Russians begin to refocus their efforts on the Donbas and in the south, that they’re prepared to concentrate the force and the combat power they have available to them, that time is of the essence.”
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that the United States would work with allies to help transfer Soviet-made tanks into Ukraine.
The U.S. also helped move along a deal for Slovakia to send an S-300 air defense system to Ukraine in exchange for an American Patriot missile system replacement.
The defense official also told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. would not stand in the way of a possible transfer of Slovakian MiG-29s to Ukraine.
“Without additional weaponry, this war will become an endless bloodbath, spreading misery, suffering, and destruction,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter along with the video. “Mariupol, Bucha, Kramatorsk – the list will be continued. Nobody will stop Russia except Ukraine with Heavy Weapons.”
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