Ukraine’s prime minister appeals for EU weapons and unity

BRUSSELS (AP) — Ukraine’s prime minister on Monday urged the European Union to stand firm against Russian energy “blackmail” and appealed for more weapons, including aircraft, for the war-ravaged country even as EU armament stocks run low.

“Russia wages a hybrid war in the European continent against the European Union. The gas blackmail, the oil blackmail, creation of the food crisis, migrant crisis, misinformation, cyberattacks,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.

“But abandoning Ukraine alone against Russia — that would just be one of those steps for the further movement of Russia deeper into Europe. The only salvation is for Europe to be united,” he told reporters in Brussels after a meeting with senior EU officials.

The EU’s 27 member nations have been funneling weapons, ammunition and other assistance into Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24. The bloc has provided billions of euros in economic and refugee support. Sanctions are also gradually taking their toll on Russia’s economy, but concern is mounting that EU resolve may falter as inflation and energy prices rise.

However, Shmyhal insisted that Ukraine, which has been accepted as a candidate for future EU membership, still needs more help.

“Unfortunately, we see no signs that Russia is willing to stop the war. This is why we need more modern weapons, such as air defense, missile defense, anti-ship defense” as well as armored vehicles and aircraft, he said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that “the European Union will continue supporting Ukraine, whatever threat, whatever blackmail Russia can put on us,” and that for “as long as it takes and as much as needed.”

But Borrell had warned earlier Monday that weapons stocks in the EU are running low and he urged member countries to better coordinate their spending on military materiel.

“The military stocks of most member states has been, I wouldn’t say exhausted, but depleted in a high proportion, because we have been providing a lot of capacity to the Ukrainians,” he said in a debate with European parliamentarians.

“It has to be refilled. The best way of refilling is doing that together. It will be cheaper,” he said.

At a meeting in the Czech Republic last week, EU defense ministers debated ways to better pool military materiel and resources, but also to bulk purchase ammunition and weapons like air defense systems which Ukraine continues to need.

Borrell warned Monday that if member countries keep expanding their military capabilities in the same way, “the result will be a big waste of money, because this is not a way of canceling our duplications — there are a lot of them — or filling our gaps.”

Borrell also rued what he believes was a missed opportunity for the EU to begin training the Ukrainian armed forces a year ago, many months before Russia launched its invasion more than six months ago, after several member countries requested such an operation.

“Unhappily we didn’t, and today we regret. We regret that last August we were not following this request, fulfilling this request,” he said. Had the EU responded at the time, Borrell said, “we would be in a better situation.”


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