7 Apr 2024

Ukraine's Zelensky warns of dwindling air defence missiles

3:13 pm on 7 April 2024
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19, 2023

Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

By Tom Balmforth and Yuliia Dysa for Reuters

Ukraine could run out of air defence missiles if Russia keeps up its intense long-range bombing campaign, President Volodymyr Zelensky warned in remarks aired on Saturday (local time).

The Ukrainian leader's starkest warning to date of the deteriorating situation faced by his country's air defences follows weeks of Russian strikes on the energy system, towns and cities using a broad arsenal of missiles and drones.

"If they keep hitting [Ukraine] every day the way they have for the last month, we might run out of missiles, and the partners know it," he said in an interview that aired on Ukrainian television.

Zelensky, who has been appealing to allies for weeks to rush in more air defences, said that Ukraine had enough stockpiles to cope for the moment, but that it was already having to make difficult choices about what to protect.

He singled out in particular the need for Patriot air defence systems and said Ukraine needed 25 of them.

The sophisticated US air defence system has been vital during Russian attacks with ballistic and hypersonic missiles which can hit targets within a matter of minutes.

Two Russian missile and drone strikes, one in the early hours of Saturday and a second in the afternoon, killed eight people and wounded at least 10 more people in northeastern Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city.

Ukraine's largest private power company DTEK says the strikes had hit 80 percent of its generating capacity and the grid has introduced rolling blackouts to stabilise the system.

'We will agree to any options'

The battlefield momentum has moved against Ukraine in recent months as Kyiv grappled with a slowdown in military assistance from the West and in particular from the United States.

"The situation is difficult, but nevertheless stabilised. The enemy does not advance: when it takes steps forward, ours repel [them], and it retreats. On the contrary, our guys are taking some steps forward," he said.

Zelensky said he still believed that a major aid package would be approved by Congress where it has been stuck in deliberations since late last year facing determined Republican opposition.

"I still believe that we can get a positive vote in the United States Congress," he said.

Asked by the interviewer about the possibility of Ukraine receiving the package in the form of a loan, he said: "We will agree to any options."

He added that some artillery shells were being supplied to Ukraine under foreign initiatives that he did not name and that they were being used for defensive operations.

"We don't have shells for counteroffensive actions, as for the defence - there are several initiatives, and we're receiving weapons," he said.

The interview was recorded next to a military fortification in northeastern Chernihiv region, which borders Russia.

It was not clear exactly which day the interview was recorded, but Zelensky met with a bipartisan group of members of Congress in the region on Friday.

- This story was first published by Reuters

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