Nato offers hope of more military aid after Ukraine plea for 'weapons, weapons, weapons'

Kyiv's top diplomat seeks more support after Bucha massacre

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, left, pleaded for more weapons from Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. AFP

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Nato signalled on Thursday it would increase military support to Ukraine after hearing an impassioned plea from the country’s foreign minister to speed up weapons shipments before it is too late.

At a summit at Nato headquarters where Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba said his wish list consisted of “weapons, weapons, weapons”, allies were urged to stop distinguishing between offensive and defensive arms in deliveries to Ukraine.

Mr Kuleba extracted a promise from Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that the alliance would “strengthen and sustain our support to Ukraine” and that its 30 members “recognise the urgency of providing more”.

Although Mr Stoltenberg would not give details of any specific weapons commitments, he said allies were providing both Soviet-era arms stocks and more modern technology to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion.

“Everything Ukraine does with support from Nato allies is defensive because they are defending themselves, and of course they need different types of weapons and allies are providing them with different types of weapons,” he said, after a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels.

Britain and Poland, both Nato members, separately announced a military co-operation pact which they said would involve co-ordinating weapons supplies to Ukraine and modernising its military from Soviet-era equipment.

Nato has so far stopped short of providing the war planes that Ukraine has requested, while no tanks had been shipped until the Czech Republic reportedly sent a shipment of T-72 models this week.

In a sign of Ukraine’s desperation, one MP, Inna Sovsun, appealed for donations from her social media followers to crowdfund drones for Ukrainian special forces.

She urged people to support Ukraine “not in words, but with small donations” as she sought to circumvent a western decision-making process which the government in Kyiv regards as slow.

Nato’s top leaders have repeatedly said that any move interpreted in Moscow as a direct Nato intervention in the war would risk widening the conflict and bringing the bloc into direct combat with Russia.

But Mr Kuleba urged western allies to put aside their hesitations and supply Ukraine with enough weapons to win the war and bring a halt to what G7 countries described on Thursday as Russian atrocities in the country.

G7 foreign ministers, also meeting on Thursday, said they would tighten sanctions on Russia after the apparent massacre in Bucha, near Kyiv, while it was under the control of the Kremlin’s forces.

Moscow’s denials that such a massacre took place have been undermined by satellite photos, published by western intelligence and media outlets, showing bodies lying in Bucha’s streets when Russian forces still controlled the town.

Mr Kuleba said a coal embargo being discussed by diplomats in the European Union would be a step forward but that Ukraine was still demanding a wider import ban that would cover oil and gas.

Senior EU officials hope to get the coal ban agreed before the end of the week, giving them something to show Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy when they visit Kyiv in the coming days.

A potential second phase of energy sanctions, targeting oil, will be discussed next week after Mr Borrell said the EU’s energy imports had financed Russia to the tune of €35 billion ($38bn) since the war began on February 24 — dwarfing the bloc's €1bn of military aid to Ukraine.

Kyiv wants its allies to complete the set by targeting gas deliveries, for which Europe is particularly reliant on Russia. Estonia announced on Thursday it would stop gas imports by the end of the year.

The G7 nations said they would “expedite plans” to reduce reliance on Russian fossil fuels but did not commit to a specific timetable, after the harrowing images from Bucha pushed European countries closer to an embargo.

“I hope we will never face a situation again when to step up the sanctions pressure, you need atrocities like Bucha to be revealed,” said Mr Kuleba.

He named Germany as one country that could do more in providing weapons, after Chancellor Olaf Scholz abandoned a years-long policy of not sending arms to conflict zones but did not deliver them quickly enough to satisfy Ukraine.

“While Berlin has time, Kyiv doesn’t,” said Mr Kuleba, who said the question was no longer about quantities of weapons but about how quickly they could be supplied.

“Either you help us now — and I'm speaking about days, not weeks, or your help will come too late, and many people will die, many civilians will lose their homes, many villages will be destroyed,” he said.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Nato allies had agreed to “supply new and heavier equipment to Ukraine” to support its defence against Russia.

“We agreed to step up support for Ukraine and we’ve also recognised that the conflict has entered a new and different phase with a more concentrated Russian offensive,” said Ms Truss in a statement after the conclusion of Thursday’s talks.

“There was support for countries to supply new and heavier equipment to Ukraine so that they can respond to these new threats from Russia.

“And we agreed to help Ukrainian forces move from their Soviet-era equipment to Nato standard equipment on a bilateral basis.

“Putin has changed his tactics, but not his intent. He wants a hold over the whole of Ukraine. And our objective as a United Kingdom remains clear. Putin must lose in Ukraine.

“Along with the United Kingdom, we’ve seen a number of allies committing to banning Russian energy imports, and we hope to see more countries do the same,” she continued.

“It was also very positive to have the likes of Australia, Japan and other Pacific countries in the room because we all recognise that, as well as the threat from Russia, there is a threat of economic coercion from China and we discussed what we must do to counter this in Europe.

“We haven’t just seen the shattering of European security, but the shattering of global security and that’s why the entire free world needs to respond.”

Updated: April 07, 2022, 5:23 PM
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