June 21. 2024. 7:12

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Zelenskiy urges West to speed up arms deliveries to Ukraine

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has demanded that western allies adopt a united front to expedite arms deliveries to his country, warning “it is speed on which life depends”.

Speaking by video link at the opening of the three-day Munich Security Conference, he likened Ukraine to a biblical David battling a Russian Goliath who “won’t be defeated by the power of conversation but the power of actions, by the courage of the sling”.

“Courage is what we have but the sling should get stronger,” he said.

On the first day of the three-day conference, attended by leaders, diplomats and security experts from around the world, public rhetoric of support for Ukraine after a year of conflict is matched by private talk of war fatigue, spiralling defence budgets and longer-term implications.


Zelenskiy urges West to speed up arms deliveries to Ukraine

Ukraine says eastern defences holding amid Russian raids and deadly air strikes

Ukraine says eastern defences holding amid Russian raids and deadly air strikes

Hoteliers owed six-figure sums for providing Ukrainian accommodation

Hoteliers owed six-figure sums for providing Ukrainian accommodation

Ukraine tensions and Chinese balloons to dominate Munich security conference

Ukraine tensions and Chinese balloons to dominate Munich security conference

Aware of these discussions, and facing a looming Russian military surge, Mr Zelenskiy urged an international audience to think of the wider implications of Moscow’s actions. The Kremlin was “thinking of ways to strangle Moldova”, he said, and of ways to “corrupt political systems to destabilise your social life with disinformation campaigns against your people”.

At stake, he said, was the rules-based order where “freedom is valued more than the mercy of a tyrant”.

“There is no alternative but to defeat Goliath who came to destroy our lives,” he said, vowing to tackle corruption to expedite accession talks with the European Union.

In a follow-up address, German chancellor Olaf Scholz said Berlin was “planning for a long war” and that it would deliver Leopard 2 battle tanks “very soon”.

After months of heated debate over Berlin hesitancy on battle tanks, Mr Scholz said Berlin had “assumed the responsibility” that others expected of Berlin but that, on tanks or other equipment, the expectation was mutual.

“It is about ensuring that we can keep going ... and that all who can deliver tanks do, in fact, do this,” he said.

As continental Europe’s largest supplier of arms to Kyiv, Mr Scholz said Berlin would “continue to strike the balance [on] the best possible support for Ukraine and avoiding unintended escalation”.

“It is not true that our arms supplies are prolonging the war, the opposite is true,” he said. “The sooner president [Vladimir] Putin realises that he cannot achieve his imperial objectives, the greater the chances the war will end soon with the withdrawal of Russia’s occupying forces.”

To maintain European unity on supplies of arms and equipment, as well as additional training for Ukrainian soldiers, the chancellor urged the EU to “pull together strategically when it comes to arms policy”.

Echoing that call, French president Emmanuel Macron said creating a “durable, credible peace” required closer EU co-operation on defence spending.

This must include more open discussion about nuclear deterrence in Europe and a push to “reform and reshape” the UN security council, given one permanent member had “decided to kill the rules”.

Rather than choose a path of growth and innovation in the post-Cold War era, the French leader suggested Russia tried to “fix its future with crazy dreams and ... resumed the old dream of empire based on hegemony and aggression”.

Mr Macron’s speech reflected on getting to a post-conflict situation by making Russia realise that its year-long war had been “crowned with defeats”.

The French leader said he saw no signals from the Kremlin at present that it was interested in negotiating, but added he was sceptical of calls to push for regime change in Russia.

“First we have to help Ukraine force Russia to come to the table on Ukraine’s terms,” he said. “The question then is to create an imperfect balance, allowing them to present something sustainable for Russia itself.”

Amid public panels and closed-door talks, and ahead of a visit to Poland on Monday by US president Joe Biden, attention will turn on Saturday to an address by vice-president Kamala Harris.

As Nato countries debate providing western fighter jets, Ukrainian deputy prime minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said that “starting a training programme for pilots at this point would be strong signal for the Russians, and our people”.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Ukraine could only get ahead of Russia if its western allies “change their logic” to accept that “Russia must lose and Ukraine must win this war”.

“We must provide Ukraine with a longer-term strategy and vision,” he said, “if we want Ukraine to be part of the stable system of the free world and ... not a buffer zone of clashes between different systems.”