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NATO's secretary-general meets with Zelenskyy to discuss battlefield and ammunition needs in Ukraine

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss the status of the war and needs of troops

Hanna Arhirova
Thursday 28 September 2023 13:26 BST

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy 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.

Zelenskyy said that Stoltenberg agreed to make efforts to get NATO members to help provide additional air defense 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 defense,” Zelenskyy said. “The world must see how Russia is losing dearly so that our shared values ultimately prevail."

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

“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.”

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 U.S. and U.K. 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, Adm. 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 U.K. and France were used in the attack on the Russian navy installation. The U.K. 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 Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu visited the memorial wall that honors fallen soldiers in Kyiv and the day after U.K. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps met with Zelenskyy to reaffirm the U.K.’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.

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 Zelenskyy. “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.”

Zelenskyy has pushed for Ukraine to join NATO, but at the organization's annual summit this summer in Lithuania, members of the trans-Atlantic 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.

Zelenskyy said 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,” Zelenskyy said.


Brian Melley contributed to this report from London.


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