West to send ‘more lethal aid’ to Ukraine, UK defence minister says

West to send ‘more lethal aid’ to Ukraine, UK defence minister says

World News

Britain’s defence secretary has said western nations have agreed to send armoured vehicles and long-range artillery to Ukraine, at a special donor conference attended by more than 35 countries, including the US.

Ben Wallace, who convened the event, said there would be “more lethal aid going into Ukraine” but that it would not include tanks or some of the other more deadly weapons that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, had asked for in the past week.

He said Ukraine needed longer-range artillery to counter Russian attacks on the its cities, including Mariupol in the south, which has been subjected to relentless shelling.

“The best counter to that is other long-range artillery, so they’ll be looking for and getting more long-range artillery, ammunition predominantly,” he said in an interview after the conference concluded.

Ukraine was also “looking for armoured vehicles of some types, not tanks necessarily, but certainly protective vehicles, and more anti-air,” Wallace said. “All of this will be forthcoming as result of this conference.”

The commitments to provide artillery pieces, shells and armoured vehicles represent a step up from the weaponry previously supplied, which has been characterised by Nato members as defensive.

Nato countries led by the US, UK and Turkey had previously agreed to supply Javelin surface-to-air missiles, next generation light anti-tank weapons (NLAWs), Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and TB2 drones, all of which have helped blunt the Russian invasion over the past five weeks.

Zelenskiy has repeatedly asked western nations in the last fortnight for tanks, fighter jets and sophisticated anti-missile and anti-aircraft weaponry so his country’s forces can try to force Russia’s troops out of the country.

He pleaded for “military assistance without restrictions” at Nato’s summit last week, asking specifically for “1% of all your planes, 1% of your tanks” because Russia was using “its entire arsenal against us”.

Western leaders, however, have been nervous about supplying offensive weapons, most notably fighter jets, fearing that it would unnecessarily provoke a nuclear-armed Russia and could invite some form of retaliation from Moscow.

More than 35 countries participated in the donor conference, including European nations, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, but their individual commitments were not immediately clear.

Some countries intend to supply Ukraine with their own stocks, while others have offered Kyiv money to buy its own arms. Those present discussed “whether we need to change the type of aid we give, which of course we will do now as the tactics in the ground change”, Wallace said.

Russia abandoned its attempt to capture Kyiv this week after an unexpectedly chaotic assault on the country. Instead it has refocussed its efforts on capturing the southern port city of Mariupol and gaining ground against Ukraine’s main fighting force in the eastern Donbas region.

Ukraine’s most obvious military problem is its inability to counter the ceaseless Russian shelling that has caused so many civilian casualties in Mariupol. Ukraine estimates that 5,000 people have been killed in the city, but the figure cannot be verified because of the ongoing fighting.

The countries present also agreed to supply coastal defence systems, the UK Ministry of Defence said, which could help defend the southern city of Odessa and disrupt Russian warships in the Black Sea from launching cruise missiles.

Several western countries have been running down their own stocks to supply Ukraine, but David Williams, the permanent secretary of the MoD, said British arms manufacturers supplying NLAWs and other kit being used in the war had been asked to increase production to replenish what had been used.

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