Ukraine allies vow strong backing at key talks

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 Ramstein Air Base/Kyiv, Germany, April 21 (AFP/APP):International backing for Ukraine holds “strong and true”, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday, as he opened a meeting in Germany with allies to discuss further support for Kyiv. On the eve of the talks gathering representatives from 50 countries, President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Western allies to send more fighter jets and long-range missiles to help repel Russian troops.
Zelensky had put his requests directly to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who visited Kyiv before heading to the Ramstein air base for the meeting. “Our support for the forces of freedom in Ukraine holds strong and true,” Austin said, as he began the discussions, a year on after the format gathering defence leaders was started to coordinate aid for Ukraine.
“At today’s contact group meeting, we’ll focus on three key issues — air defence, ammunition and enablers,” said Austin, referring to logistics and other support. Zelensky had asked for NATO’s help to “overcome the reluctance” of some member states in providing long-range rockets, modern fighter jets and armoured vehicles.
NATO members have sent some Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine, but no modern planes such as the US-designed F-16 have been pledged despite Ukraine’s requests. Ukraine’s Western supporters have also been reluctant to send long-range rockets because of concerns that Ukraine could use them to hit targets within Russia.
Stoltenberg acknowledged the need to discuss “new platforms” of support with the battle now in its second year. He also underlined the necessity of ensuring that already supplied weapons continued to work. “I think sometimes we underestimate all the logistics that have to be in place just to have operational battle tank capabilities so maybe it’s also a bit more boring but the logistics is extremely important.
“This is now a battle of attrition and a battle of attrition becomes a a war of logistics,” said the NATO chief.
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