Nato chief meets Zelensky to discuss defence needs in Ukraine

Jens Stoltenberg discussed defence needs with Mr Zelensky (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Jens Stoltenberg discussed defence needs with Mr Zelensky (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has met President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv to discuss the status of the war and the needs of the Ukrainian military.

The meeting comes the day after Russia accused Ukraine’s Western allies of helping plan and conduct last week’s missile strike on the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters on the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Mr Zelensky said Mr Stoltenberg agreed to make efforts to get Nato members to help provide additional air defence systems to protect Ukraine’s power plants and energy infrastructure that were badly damaged in relentless and deadly attacks by Russia last winter.

He also reminded the secretary-general of the persistent attacks that often strike civilian areas, including 40 drone attacks overnight.

The Ukrainian leader said: “In the face of such intense attacks against Ukrainians, against our cities, our ports, which are crucial for global food security, we need a corresponding intensity of pressure on Russia and a strengthening of our air defence.

Stoltenberg and Zelensky
The meeting took place in Kyiv (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

“The world must see how Russia is losing dearly so that our shared values ultimately prevail.”

Mr Stoltenberg said that Nato has contracts for 2.4 billion euros (£2.08 billion) in ammunition for Ukraine, including 155mm Howitzer shells, anti-tank guided missiles and tank ammunition.

“The stronger Ukraine becomes, the closer we become to ending Russia’s aggression,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

“Russia could lay down arms and end its war today. Ukraine doesn’t have that option. Ukraine’s surrender would not mean peace. It would mean brutal Russian occupation. Peace at any price would be no peace at all.”

On Wednesday, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova had said the attack on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Crimea had been coordinated with the help of US and UK security agencies, and that Nato satellites and reconnaissance planes also played a role.

Vladimir Putin
The cold weather could have an impact on Ukraine’s counter-offensive (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Ukraine said without providing supporting evidence that the attack had killed 34 officers and wounded 105 others.

But it also claimed to have killed the fleet’s commander, Admiral Viktor Sokolov, who was shown on Russian state television on Wednesday speaking with reporters in the Black Sea city of Sevastopol.

Unconfirmed news reports said Storm Shadow missiles provided to Ukraine by the UK and France were used in the attack on the Russian navy installation.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence, which in the past has declined to discuss intelligence-related matters, did not comment on Ms Zakharova’s remarks.

The meeting with Mr Stoltenberg came the same day the French defence minister Sebastien Lecornu visited the memorial wall that honours fallen soldiers in Kyiv and the day after Defence Secretary Grant Shapps met with Mr Zelensky to reaffirm the UK’s support for Ukraine and pledged to provide more ammunition as Kyiv’s counter-offensive plods forward toward the season when damp and cold weather could slow progress.

Rocket damage
Police officers examine a crater from a Russian rocket in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region (AP)

Mr Zelensky has pushed for Ukraine to join Nato, but at the organization’s annual summit this summer in Lithuania, members of the trans-Atlantic military alliance pledged more support for Ukraine but stopped short of extending an invitation for the country to join the alliance.

Nato leaders said during the summit that they would allow Ukraine to join the alliance “when allies agree and conditions are met”.

They also decided to remove obstacles on Ukraine’s membership path so that it can join more quickly once the war with Russia is over.

Mr Zelensky said Ukraine is working on a plan that will outline practical steps for Ukraine to align with the principles and standards of Nato.

“And it is very important that the allies have agreed that Ukraine does not need an action plan for Nato membership,” Mr Zelensky said.