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Zelensky pleads for air defence help at Berlin aid summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz both stressed the need for more air defence help for Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz both stressed the need for more air defence help for Kyiv - Copyright POOL/AFP/File Ludovic MARIN
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz both stressed the need for more air defence help for Kyiv - Copyright POOL/AFP/File Ludovic MARIN
Sebastien ASH

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday pleaded for more air defence help to stop Russian attacks as he began an intense week of diplomatic meetings with Western partners. 

“Russia’s greatest strategic advantage over Ukraine is superiority in the sky. It is missile and bomb terror that helps Russian troops advance on the ground,” Zelensky told a reconstruction conference in Berlin.

“Air defence is the answer,” he said.

Zelensky, who is also due to address the German parliament, will join the heads of the G7 developed nations later this week in Italy.

He then heads to Switzerland for peace talks over the weekend on the war in Ukraine. Russia has not been invited.

Opening the Berlin conference, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also urged allies to provide more air defence for Ukraine. 

“I would like to make a heartfelt plea to everyone here today: please support our initiative to strengthen Ukraine’s air defence with everything that is possible,” Scholz told delegates.

“The best reconstruction is the one that doesn’t have to take place at all,” he said.

Germany has contributed three Patriot air defence systems to Kyiv, while Zelensky said a total of seven Patriots are needed for Ukraine to shield its urban centres from the storm of Russian missiles.

Russian aerial attacks had already destroyed half of the country’s electricity production since winter, according to Zelensky.

Ukraine’s state power operator said it was extending scheduled outages around the country because of increased consumption and “extensive damage” to the network.

– Air attacks –

After almost a year of stalemate, Ukraine has been forced to abandon dozens of frontline settlements this spring, with Russian troops holding a significant advantage in manpower and resources.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said on Tuesday its forces had downed a Russian Su-25 jet a day earlier in the eastern Donetsk region, where Moscow has concentrated its firepower in recent weeks. 

Ukrainian prosecutors in the industrial region, which the Kremlin claimed to have annexed in late 2022, meanwhile said five people had been wounded in an overnight Russian strike on the frontline town of Kostyantynivka.

With the war at a critical juncture, Zelensky is ramping up a diplomatic offensive to shore up support.

At the G7 summit in southern Italy, Zelensky will attend a discussion Thursday on Russia’s war on his country, where he will have another opportunity to press Western leaders for more help.

US President Joe Biden will however be absent from the summit, sending Vice President Kamala Harris in his place, in a diplomatic blow to Kyiv.

G7 leaders hope to agree a deal on using the profits from the interest on 300 billion euros ($325 billion) of frozen Russian central bank assets to help Kyiv.

– Swiss peace summit –

After the G7 meeting Zelensky will head to Switzerland, where he will attend a peace summit on the war in Ukraine from Saturday.

The gathering, hosted at the luxury Burgenstock resort on a mountain ridge overlooking Lake Lucerne, is set to be attended by representatives from some 90 countries and international organisations.

Organised at Ukraine’s request, the outcome remains uncertain, though Switzerland is hoping to secure a joint final declaration.

“There will be no military victory and no dictated peace,” Scholz said Tuesday, calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “end his brutal campaign and withdraw his troops”.

Russia was not invited to the summit, with the Kremlin repeatedly saying it would not participate in any negotiations if Kyiv does not accept Moscow’s annexation of the approximately 20 percent of Ukrainian territory Russia currently occupies.

Moscow’s key ally China would also be absent from the conference despite the diplomatic efforts to convince Beijing to participate. 

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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