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NATO: Zelenskyy needs Patriots, Stoltenberg promises them

April 19, 2024

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told NATO defense ministers his country needs air-defense batteries to fend off Russia. He said support on the issue will determine whether Ukraine and NATO are allies.

A US-made Patriot air-defense battery seen at a military installation in the German state of Lower-Saxony
Zelenskyy says Patriots will save Ukrainian lives as Russia steps up air attacksImage: Philipp Schulze/dpa/picture alliance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday admonished NATO defense ministers, telling them, "the choice of whether we are indeed allies," will be determined by whether NATO countries are willing to provide his beleaguered country with more military aid as it struggles to defend itself against a Russian onslaught that is now in its third year.

Zelenskyy described the state of Western aid as "very limited," contrasting the current lack of support for Kyiv to the aid being extended to Israel.

Zelenskyy said his country needs seven further US-made Patriot air-defense systems. He added that "[Russian President Vladimir] Putin must be brought down to earth and our sky must become safe again ... and it fully depends on your choice ... the choice whether we are indeed allies."

Speaking via remote video link, Zelenskyy told NATO ministers that Ukraine had been targeted by more than 1,200 Russian missiles, as well as 1,500 drones and 8,500 guided bombs in the face of wavering Western support.

Moscow has also increased the frequency of its long-range attacks on critical Ukrainian infrastructure.

A frustrated Zelenskyy's desperate plea

"We are telling [you] this directly… to defend [ourselves] we need seven more Patriots or similar air-defense systems… and that's a minimum number. They can save many lives and really change the situation," he said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg addressed the issue after the meeting, saying Ukraine's allies would come through.

"In addition to Patriots there are other weapons that allies can provide, including [the French-Italian] SAMP/T — and many others who do not have available systems have pledged to provide financial support to the purchase of them for Ukraine," Stoltenberg told reporters.

Beyond his plea for air-defense systems, Zelenskyy railed at NATO inaction regarding munitions supplies, saying, "This year we cannot wait for decisions to be made."

Though allies have promised Kyiv millions of rounds of ammunition, for instance, they have so far been unable to deliver them.

Ukraine, sorely outgunned and outmanned in its showdown with neighboring Russia, has repeatedly told allies that it is cheaper and easier to supply Kyiv's forces in fending off Russia than it will be if Moscow starts knocking on a NATO member's door.

Addressing the drawn out politics of Ukraine funding in the US — held up for months by a few hard-right Trump supporters in the US House of Representatives, Zelenskyy said, "We're still waiting for new support packages from the United States — American support has been in question for too long."

A $62 billion (€57.3 billion) Ukraine aid package is set to go to the floor of the House for a vote on Saturday.

Ukraine's Kuleba presses NATO on Patriot missile system

js/lo (AFP, Reuters)