Ukraine Expects Help With Warplanes 02/06 06:14
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine's defense minister expressed confidence Sunday
that Western allies would agree to the country's latest weapons request --
warplanes to fight off Russian forces that invaded nearly a year ago.
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told a news conference in Kyiv that
Ukraine has already received everything from its "wish list to Santa," except
"There will be planes, too," Reznikov predicted. "The question is just what
kind exactly.... Consider that this mission is already completed."
So far, Ukraine has won support from Baltic nations and Poland in its quest
to obtain Western fighter jets. But several Western leaders have expressed
concern that providing warplanes could provoke the Kremlin and draw their
countries deeper into the conflict, which has cost tens of thousands of lives
and wreaked massive destruction.
Kyiv says such jets are essential to challenging Russia's air superiority
and ensuring success in a Russian offensive that Reznikov predicted could begin
around the war's one-year anniversary, Feb. 24.
"Not all Western weapons will arrive by then, but we have the resources and
reserves to help stabilize and sustain the offensive," Reznikov told reporters.
Since the war began, Western leaders have balked at some of Ukraine's
requests, such as for longer-range missiles and tanks, only to agree later. The
warplanes are the latest example.
Ukraine has relocated its warplanes and concealed air defense assets,
hampering Moscow's efforts to gain full control of the skies. After suffering
early losses, the Russian air force has avoided venturing deep into Ukraine's
airspace and mostly focused on close front line support.
German-made tanks are on the way to Ukraine. Reznikov said his forces would
begin training on Leopard tanks in Europe on Monday, before their delivery to
Ukraine. So far, Canada, Poland, Germany, Great Britain and the United States
have announced they will supply tanks to Ukraine.
The Kremlin has said Western countries' supply of increasingly sophisticated
and more weapons will only prolong the conflict, and it has characterized NATO
as a direct participant. Reznikov, commenting on the supply of Western weapons
and the state of the Ukrainian army, took the rhetoric further on Sunday,
telling reporters: "I absolutely boldly claim that we have become a de facto
NATO country. We only have a de jure part left."
Ukraine has applied to join NATO, as have two of Russia's other neighbors,
Finland and Sweden.
On the battlefield, Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said four
people were injured Sunday when a Russian S-300 missile fell near an apartment
block in Kharkiv city, and another was hurt when a missile hit a university
building. Video showed the building hit was the National Academy for Urban
Economy, about 700 meters from the city's central square.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting continued in the Donetsk region of eastern
Ukraine, one of four regions that Russia illegally annexed last year even
though its forces do not fully control the area. Donetsk governor Pavlo
Kyrylenko said five civilians were wounded in rocket attacks during the night
in the city of Druzhkivka and that the town of Avdiivka and its outskirts were
also fired on.
In the Donetsk city of Bakhmut, the epicenter of the fiercest fighting in
Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said Sunday it had repelled Russian attacks.
The founder of the mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in a
Telegram post that Kyiv's forces were not retreating and that "there are fierce
battles for every street, every house, every stairwell."
In the Black Sea port of Odesa, workers labored to connect temporary
generators shipped in to restore electricity. The city and surrounding area
were plunged into darkness over the weekend following a large-scale network
Grid operator Ukrenergo said that the failure involved equipment "repeatedly
repaired" after Russia's savage strikes on Ukraine's energy grid, and that
residents should brace themselves for lengthy blackouts.
As of Sunday afternoon, about 280,000 customers -- 40% of the customers --
remained without power, said prime minister Denis Shmyhal.