President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged Western allies to speed up their military support for Ukraine, warning that delays would play into Russia’s hands.
“There is no alternative to speed because it’s speed that life depends on,” Zelenskyy said on Friday at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
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Ukraine depends on Western weapons to thwart Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambition to seize control of large areas of the country. The military aid has become a test of foreign governments’ resolve as costs for the support rise at a time when they face high inflation and other economic problems.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged allies with Leopard battle tanks to send them immediately as efforts to equip Ukraine with the weapons stalled.
“Those who can send such battle tanks should really do so now,” Scholz said at the conference, adding that he would be “intensively campaigning” for allies to move on the issue.
Scholz’s call marked a dramatic reversal after he had come under pressure for months from allies to approve the delivery of the German-made tanks.
Germany finally relented in January, saying it would itself send a company of 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks as it worked with allies to assemble two tank battalions for Ukraine.
German officials have since indicated that they are disappointed that other countries have not offered more armour. The country is still waiting on some European partners to follow up with their own pledges.
Scholz said Germany will do what it can “to make this decision easier for our partners”, for instance by training Ukrainian soldiers or helping with logistics.
About 40 heads of state and government as well as other politicians and security experts from almost 100 countries are due to attend the three-day gathering in Munich as fears persist that the fighting in Ukraine could lead to a new cold war.
Supplying Ukraine with billions of dollars of military aid has sometimes strained Kyiv’s allies. After receiving Western pledges of tanks and more ammunition, Ukraine is now hoping for fighter jets, but some countries have balked at sending them.
Zelenskyy promised that his country would ultimately prevail over Moscow’s aggression – and even predicted that victory would happen this year. But he warned that Russia “can still destroy many lives.”
“That is why we need to hurry up,” Zelenskyy said. “We need the speed.”
Zelenskyy portrays Ukraine as defending Western values of freedom and democracy against tyranny and argues that his country needs to be properly equipped to fend off Russia’s much bigger force. Western countries have sided with him, but at times, they have been slow to meet his requests.
For the first time in two decades, conference organisers did not invite Russian officials to Munich. It was the latest snub as Western countries seek to isolate Russia diplomatically over the full-scale invasion that began on February 24, 2022.