Zelenskiy's Plea for More Air Defences

Written by Henrik Rothen

May.18 - 2024 12:36 PM CET

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Ukraine’s president calls for increased air defences as morale among troops wanes

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed concerns about Russia ramping up its offensive in the northeast, highlighting that Ukraine currently has only a quarter of the air defences required to maintain the front line.

Russian Gains in Kharkiv

In a surprise attack on May 10, Russian forces made their most significant territorial gains in over a year in the Kharkiv region.

Zelenskiy reported that Russian troops advanced between five to ten kilometers along the northeastern border before being halted by Ukrainian forces.

However, he warned that this could be just the beginning of a broader offensive.

"I won't say it's a great success for Russia, but we have to be sober and understand that they are going deeper into our territory," Zelenskiy told Agence France-Presse (AFP) according to The Guardian, marking his first interview with foreign media since the offensive began. While he assured that the situation in Kharkiv is "controlled," he admitted it is not yet "stabilized."

Plea for More Air Defences

Zelenskiy reiterated the urgent need for more air defence systems and fighter jets from allies to counter Russia’s air superiority.

"Today, we have about 25% of what we need to defend Ukraine. I'm talking about air defence," he stated.

To reach parity with Russia, Zelenskiy said Ukraine needs "120 to 130" F-16 fighter jets or equivalent advanced aircraft.

The president acknowledged morale issues and staffing shortages within Ukraine's forces, noting that many brigades are under-strength. With the war entering its third year, Ukraine's military is struggling to recruit new soldiers, while existing troops face exhaustion and frustration due to a lack of rotation. Many have been fighting for over two years without discharge.

A new mobilisation law, effective from Saturday, lowers the draft age from 27 to 25 and imposes stricter penalties for draft evasion. However, a controversial proposal to allow soldiers with more than 36 months of service to be discharged was abandoned.

Zelenskiy emphasized Ukraine’s long-term strategy in contrast to Western allies' desire for a quick resolution.

"The west wants the war to end. Period. As soon as possible. And, for them, this is a fair peace," he said.

He pointed out the paradox of the West fearing both a Russian defeat and a Ukrainian loss.

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