U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, right, attend a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting on Capri Island, April 18, 2024. (Gregorio Borgia/Pool/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, right, attend a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G7 Foreign Ministers meeting on Capri Island, April 18, 2024. (Gregorio Borgia/Pool/AFP/Getty Images/TNS) ()

(Tribune News Service) — As Ukraine’s ammunition stocks dwindle some of the country’s biggest allies are expressing growing concern that it may not be able to defend itself for much longer against Russia’s invasion. Group of Seven foreign ministers gathering on the Italian island of Capri will call for stronger support.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, speaking to reporters Thursday before meeting with her G-7 counterparts, said Ukraine needs more air defense urgently. “The ferry ride here was stormy and was perhaps also a sign of how stormy our times are.”

Ukraine is struggling to fend off military pressure from Russia in the face of a lack of ammunition and with a $61 billion U.S. aid package stuck in Congress. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been calling for more air defense systems to be sent to Ukraine as Kremlin troops exploit the country’s weakness in that arena in order to step up missile attacks on power stations, electricity grids and residential areas across the country.

“Western countries, Japan, Canada, the U.S., Europe, have to take quicker decisions in order to support Ukraine more because we cannot afford Putin’s victory,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at the G-7. “Concrete decisions have to be taken in order to send Ukraine more air defense otherwise the electricity system of Ukraine will be destroyed, and no country can fight without electricity.”

The G-7 ministers will agree to step up shipments of military equipment to Kyiv and will reaffirm their “unwavering determination” to support Ukraine as it defends itself, according to a draft statement from the meeting seen by Bloomberg.

“We express our resolve in particular to bolster Ukraine’s air defense capabilities as this is the best way to save lives and protect critical infrastructure,” according to the draft, which could still change. “We will also work with partners toward this end.”

Elsewhere in Europe, at a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels, some were voicing impatience at what they saw as a widening gulf between rhetoric and action. “If all the words that were said in the last years here in Brussels about common defense could be changed into bullets and rocket launchers,” posted Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk to the social media site X, “Europe would have become the strongest power in the world.”

Three Russian missiles hit close to the center of Chernihiv on Wednesday, killing at least 18 people and leaving more than 77 wounded. While Vladimir Putin’s forces regularly shell the surrounding region that borders on Russia, missile barrages against the provincial capital, about 79 miles north of Kyiv, have been rare.

Officials expressed optimism on the news that U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson would move ahead with new assistance for Ukraine, which has long been held up by Congress. The plan is an attempt to break a six-month-long Republican blockade of aid that has left Ukraine increasingly vulnerable to Russian assaults.

“In these stormy times, it’s a hopeful sign that there are now signals from the U.S., from the Republicans, that support for Ukraine can be continued intensively,“ Baerbock said.

Zelenskyy has for months urged partners to replenish the depleting stocks of munitions his country needs to repel attacks from Russia, which now outguns it on the battlefield 10-to-one. NATO defense ministers will meet virtually with Zelenskyy on Friday at the Ukrainian president’s request to discuss protecting Ukraine’s airspace and supplying badly needed systems.

Germany, which pledged to donate an additional Patriot system after Ukrainian officials renewed their pleas for more equipment, launched an appeal to collect Patriots for Ukraine and other air defense systems, including Samp/Ts, Nasams, Hawks and Iris-Ts.

In a letter sent to NATO allies this week and seen by Bloomberg, Baerbock and German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that recent Russian attacks on vital energy infrastructure have caused greater destruction than in the winter of 2022. “Given the situation that Ukraine is faced with, they are a matter of great urgency,” they said of the aid.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, who was also present at the G-7 meeting, called on American lawmakers “to support the supplemental that will literally without exaggeration help save Ukrainians from Russian missile slaughter.”

The same issue was also being discussed at the meeting in Brussels, where the mood was equally dire.

“The situation is very, very grave and we have to send them what they ask for, which is ammunition and air defense,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told reporters at the summit on Thursday. “We just can’t afford that Ukraine is losing the war or the whole security situation in Europe is in grave danger.”

With assistance from Piotr Skolimowski.

©2024 Bloomberg News.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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