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Ukraine war: Zelensky meets Nato’s Stoltenberg to discuss military needs, says Kyiv’s inclusion in bloc ‘matter of time’


Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with President Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss the status of the war and needs of troops on Thursday, the day after Russia accused Ukraine’s Western allies of helping plan and conduct last week’s missile strike on the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters on the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Zelensky said that Stoltenberg agreed to make efforts to get Nato members to help provide additional air defence systems to protect Ukraine’s power plants and energy infrastructure that were badly damaged in relentless and deadly attacks by Russia last winter. He also reminded the secretary general of the persistent attacks that often strike civilian areas, including 40 drone attacks overnight.

“In the face of such intense attacks against Ukrainians, against our cities, our ports, which are crucial for global food security, we need a corresponding intensity of pressure on Russia and a strengthening of our air defence,” Zelensky said. “The world must see how Russia is losing dearly so that our shared values ultimately prevail.”

Stoltenberg said that Ukrainian forces were “gradually gaining ground” in their counteroffensive against Russian forces, adding that “every metre that Ukrainian forces regain is a metre that Russia loses”.

Stoltenberg said he was “constantly pushing” Nato allies to provide more support to Ukraine and speed up delivery, “not least” of air defence systems.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meet in Kyiv on Thursday. Photo: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

Stoltenberg said that Nato has contracts for 2.4 billion euros (US$2.5 billion) in ammunition for Ukraine, including 155mm Howitzer shells, anti-tank guided missiles and tank ammunition.

He said such contracts would allow Nato members to replenish their depleted stockpiles while also continuing to provide Ukraine with ammunition, a key factor in the war.

“The stronger Ukraine becomes, the closer we become to ending Russia’s aggression,” Stoltenberg said. “Russia could lay down arms and end its war today. Ukraine doesn’t have that option. Ukraine’s surrender would not mean peace. It would mean brutal Russian occupation. Peace at any price would be no peace at all.”

Zelensky said on Thursday that his country would eventually become a member of Nato.

“[It is] a matter of time before Ukraine becomes a de jure member of the alliance. We are doing everything to bring this time closer,” he said at a joint press conference with the Nato chief.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova had said the attack on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Crimea had been coordinated with the help of US and UK security agencies, and that Nato satellites and reconnaissance planes also played a role.

Ukraine said without providing supporting evidence that the attack had killed 34 officers and wounded 105 others. But it also claimed to have killed the fleet’s commander, Admiral Viktor Sokolov, who was shown on Russian state television on Wednesday speaking with reporters in the Black Sea city of Sevastopol.

Unconfirmed news reports said Storm Shadow missiles provided to Ukraine by the UK and France were used in the attack on the Russian navy installation. The UK Ministry of Defense, which in the past has declined to discuss intelligence-related matters, didn’t comment on Zakharova’s remarks.

The meeting with Stoltenberg came the same day the French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu visited the memorial wall that honours fallen soldiers in Kyiv and the day after UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps met with Zelensky to reaffirm the UK’s support for Ukraine and pledged to provide more ammunition as Kyiv’s counteroffensive plods forward toward the season when damp and cold weather could slow progress.

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Shapps, who hosted a Ukrainian family in his home for a year, said that he was personally aggrieved by what the country had endured.

“Our support for you, for Ukraine remains absolutely undented,” Shapps said in a video posted by Zelensky. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with you. We feel your pain of what’s happened and we want to see a resolution, which is the resolution that you want and require.”

Zelensky has pushed for Ukraine to join Nato, but at the organisation’s annual summit this summer in Lithuania, members of the transatlantic military alliance pledged more support for Ukraine but stopped short of extending an invitation for the country to join the alliance.

Nato leaders said during the summit that they would allow Ukraine to join the alliance “when allies agree and conditions are met.” They also decided to remove obstacles on Ukraine’s membership path so that it can join more quickly once the war with Russia is over.

Zelensky said on Thursday that Ukraine is working on a plan that will outline practical steps for Ukraine to align with the principles and standards of Nato.

“And it is very important that the allies have agreed that Ukraine does not need an action plan for Nato membership,” he said.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Reuters

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