Volodymyr Zelensky pushes for hasty support for Ukraine to save lives
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has been one of Ukraine’s main backers, renewed pledges to help but also insisted that Kyiv’s allies must not be hasty.
“For all the pressure to act that there doubtless is, in this decisive question, care must come before rushing, cohesion before solo performances,” said Scholz, who has hesitated before taking new steps to help Ukraine.
Berlin agreed last month to deliver German-made Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine and to grant other countries permission to do the same. German officials, who faced heavy pressure to send the Leopards, have since indicated that they are disappointed other countries have not offered more armor.
Scholz urged “all who can deliver such battle tanks” to do so. He said Germany will do what it can “to make this decision easier for our partners,” for instance by training Ukrainian soldiers or helping with logistics.
The need to supply Ukraine with billions of dollars’ worth of military aid has sometimes strained allied countries. After receiving Western pledges of tanks and more ammunition, Kyiv is now hoping for fighter jets, but some countries have balked at sending them.
French President Emmanuel Macron endorsed Zelensky’s appeal.
“We must collectively be credible,” Macron told the gathering, “because it’s the only way to make Russia come back to the negotiating table in an acceptable manner and build a sustainable peace. That is: at a time and under conditions to be chosen by Ukrainians.”
For the first time in two decades, conference organisers did not invite Russian officials to Munich. It was the latest snub as Western countries seek to isolate Russia diplomatically over the invasion that began on February 24, 2022.
US Vice President Kamala Harris was scheduled to address the conference on Saturday, Munich time. She will lay out what’s at stake in the war, and why it matters, to bolster the case for maintaining US support for Ukraine for as long as necessary, the White House said.
“We will make sure that we do everything possible within our power to strengthen Ukraine’s position on the battlefield. So that if and when there are negotiations, Ukraine will be in the strongest position in a negotiation,” Harris told MSNBC in an interview that aired Friday.
She also met Friday with Macron, who thanked the US for its “commitment to the security of this continent”.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said Russia’s invasion must be stopped or it will not end with Ukraine.
“So there is no other option but for us to support Ukraine as much as we can,” he said.
In other developments Friday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the US intelligence community has estimated that more than 30,000 Wagner Group mercenaries have been killed or wounded while fighting in Ukraine on behalf of Russia.
About half of the Wagner dead were killed since December, Kirby said.
The US believes that about 90 per cent of those killed were convicts who Wagner pulled out of prison to join the fight, he added.