Zelensky says NATO members must choose "whether we indeed are allies"

Dnipro, Ukraine - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that NATO must decide if it is Ukraine's ally and urged the defense alliance's members to accelerate weapons deliveries to help his struggling forces.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with NATO members to accelerate weapons deliveries to help his struggling forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded with NATO members to accelerate weapons deliveries to help his struggling forces.  © OZAN KOSE / AFP

His appeal to Western partners to provide at least seven more air defense systems came hours after Russia launched a wave of fatal drone and missile attacks across the country.

"Our sky must become safe again," the Ukrainian leader told a gathering of NATO defense ministers via video link.

"It depends fully on your choice," he said, telling the meeting in Brussels that their alliance faced a choice over "whether we indeed are allies."

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Zelensky has pointed to Western efforts to defend Israel from Iranian aerial attacks and suggested Ukraine's allies could do more to fend off Russian bombardments.

Casting a bleak picture of his forces' ability to hold off Russian attacks on the ground, Zelensky said Ukraine could not defend itself without Western support.

"It is obvious that now, while Russia has air advantage and can rely on its drone and rocket terror, our capabilities on the ground, unfortunately, are limited," he told the NATO ministers.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the bloc had agreed to give Ukraine more weapons, including air defenses.

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Ukraine has seen an uptick in devastating Russian attacks on its cities.
Ukraine has seen an uptick in devastating Russian attacks on its cities.  © Genya SAVILOV / AFP

"NATO has mapped out existing capabilities across the alliance, and there are systems that can be made available to Ukraine," he said. "So I expect new announcements on air defense capabilities for Ukraine soon."

Ukraine has seen an uptick in devastating Russian attacks on its cities. Earlier this week, a strike in the city of Chernihiv killed 18 people.

Zelensky called a Saturday vote in the House of Representatives on a long-delayed $61 billion military aid package a "vitally important decision."

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The aid has been delayed since last year amid political infighting in the Republican Party and Zelensky on Friday urged Ukraine's allies to make speedier decisions on support.

"This year, we can't wait for decisions to be made," he said.

"We need seven more Patriots or similar air defense systems – and it's a minimum number. They can save many lives and really change the situation," Zelensky said.

He addressed the NATO ministers after visiting Ukrainian troops on the front line and inspecting new defensive lines dug in the war-battered Donetsk region.

Cover photo: OZAN KOSE / AFP

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