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KYIV — Governments around the globe are not shy about declaring how much support they have given to Ukraine. But officials in Kyiv say more must be done — and urgently.
“Russia is not in a hurry” to end the war and Moscow’s strategy is to exhaust the Ukrainian armed forces, said Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European integration. Therefore, “the further developments of this war are directly dependent on the military assistance which will be provided to Ukraine,” she told a group of visiting members of national European parliaments and think-tankers on Friday.
The country’s Western partners have been providing an increasing amount of weapons and equipment for Ukraine, as well as economic aid. But officials in Kyiv say these same countries can and should go further — and that despite the rhetoric, not all friendly capitals are living up to Ukraine’s expectations.
The deputy prime minister said that while she sees a recent meeting of senior defense officials at Ramstein Air Base in Germany to coordinate assistance for Ukraine as the beginning of “a new reality,” there are still gaps.
“We need a lot of weapons right now,” she said. Nevertheless, “some of the countries,” Stefanishyna noted, “have been doing it to tick the box.”
According to Stefanishyna, in order to avoid political discomfort, some governments are announcing assistance but without providing the type — or quantity — of weapons that Ukraine needs.
A senior Ukrainian military official said that his country’s priorities now include getting MLRS multiple launch rocket systems, drones, combat aircraft, radar and air defense systems, and coastal defense systems.
On their visit, organized by the Slovakia-based GLOBSEC think tank, the European lawmakers saw the impact of the war firsthand.
In the streets of the Ukrainian capital, people are slowly returning to some of their old ways — some residents have returned home, young people hurry about on e-scooters, and some locals sit outside in cafés enjoying the sunshine. But the war can be felt everywhere: Sandbags fill windows of government offices. Some stores remain shut and soldiers guard makeshift checkpoints.
And just a short drive outside Kyiv, in the town of Borodyanka, burned and partially collapsed buildings line a residential street. Nevertheless, even amid the destruction, on a recent afternoon, a group of young boys was playing outside.
Meanwhile, fighting is raging in the east.
In part to boost morale at home, and to cement Kyiv’s future strategic orientation, the Ukrainian government is pushing for EU leaders to grant the country candidate status as soon as possible.
Ihor Zhovkva, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, told the visiting parliamentarians that while the country understands accession negotiations would be difficult, “we will not understand it in Ukraine if in June Ukraine will not be granted the candidate status on just mere bureaucratic reasons.”
Candidate status has “huge symbolic meaning for Ukraine,” Zhovkva said.
Officials in Kyiv acknowledged that they will have to win over some of their counterparts in European capitals.
Stefanishyna said that European governments who are skeptical about Ukraine’s EU membership aspirations have “weak” arguments.
The vast majority of EU countries support Ukraine’s membership aspirations, the deputy prime minister told reporters, adding that there are around six or seven countries that are skeptical. She named Germany, Portugal, Spain, Austria and Sweden as countries where there was a need for “discussion.”
The deputy prime minister also called for even stronger European sanctions to isolate Russia’s economy faster.
Other officials were even blunter in their message to partners.
Vitali Klitschko, the champion boxer who is now mayor of Kyiv, told the delegation that even the capital is not safe — a siren went off during his meeting with the visiting politicians — and that instability in Ukraine means instability for the whole region.
Ukraine’s friends should stop trading with Russia, he added, saying that European politicians who aim to be friendly with Ukraine and with Russia are trying to be “half pregnant.”
“You have to decide,” he said, “you support Russia or you support Ukraine.”