Delays in promised Western military aid to Ukraine are costing lives, the defense minister says


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Half of promised Western military support to Ukraine fails to arrive on time, complicating the task of military planners and ultimately costing the lives of soldiers in Russia’s war, the Ukrainian defense minister said Sunday.

Rustan Umerov, speaking at the “Ukraine. Year 2024” forum in Kyiv, stressed that each delayed aid shipment meant Ukrainian troop losses, and underscored Russia’s superior military might.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later told attendees at the event that 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in action since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022. It was the first time that Kyiv has confirmed the number of its losses.

Commemorations to mark the second anniversary of the war on Saturday brought expressions of continued support, new bilateral security agreements and new aid commitments from Ukraine’s Western allies. But Umerov said that they still needed to deliver on their commitments if Ukraine is to have any chance of holding out against Russia.

“We look to the enemy: their economy is almost $2 trillion,” he said, adding that they use up to 15% of official and nonofficial budget funds for the war, which constitutes more than $150 billion. He said that whenever a commitment doesn’t arrive on time, “we lose people, we lose territories.”

Umerov and the Ukrainian military’s commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrskyi, toured front-line combat posts earlier Sunday amid a worsening ammunition shortage and dogged Russian attacks in the east.

They heard from front-line troops and “thoroughly analyzed” the battlefield situation on their visit, Syrskyi said in a Telegram update. He didn’t specify where exactly he and Umerov went, but said that “the situation is difficult” for Ukrainian troops and “needs constant control” along many stretches of the front.

Russian forces on Sunday appeared to be pressing on west of Avdiivka, the strategic city whose capture this month handed Moscow a major victory as fierce fighting rages on in eastern Ukraine.

Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, who leads Ukrainian forces fighting in the area, said Sunday that his troops had retreated from much of Lastochkyne, a western suburb of Avdiivka. Some Ukrainian media on Saturday reported that Russian troops had taken Lastochkyne, but there was no official confirmation from Kyiv and the battlefield situation appeared fluid.

Earlier this month, Syrskyi replaced Ukraine’s top military commander, Valerii Zaluzhny, in the most significant shake-up of the top brass since the start of the full-scale war, after a long-expected counteroffensive last summer failed to produce major breakthroughs and as military aid for Kyiv hangs in the balance in the U.S. Congress. Russia still controls roughly a quarter of the country.

Speaking at the forum in Kyiv, Umerov insisted on Sunday that Ukrainian forces were doing “everything that’s possible, and also what’s impossible, to secure a breakthrough” this year. The defense minister also said that a “strong” military strategy is already in place for the coming months, but didn’t disclose details.

Jake Sullivan, U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, on Sunday asserted that he believes Kyiv has a path to victory, as long as Western allies deliver “the tools that it needs.”

Speaking to NBC in Washington, Sullivan acknowledged that Ukrainian forces lost Avdiivka because of a shortage of ammunition, calling on U.S. Congress to “step up” and pass the additional $60 billion in security assistance requested by the Biden administration.

“I think it’s important to take a step back and remember that two years ago, everyone was predicting that Ukraine was going to fall,” Sullivan said, adding that Moscow has already “failed in its fundamental objective” to “subjugate” its neighbor.

“The reality is that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin gains every day that Ukraine does not get the resources it needs, and Ukraine suffers,” Sullivan added.

Also on Sunday, Germany’s top diplomat announced during a visit to southern Ukraine that Berlin would send Kyiv an extra 100 million euros ($108 million) in humanitarian aid, according to Germany’s dpa agency.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock then had to abort a visit to a water supply station in the city of Mykolaiv after a Russian drone was spotted in the area, dpa reported. Baerbock and her delegation rushed back into their armored vehicles, and the drone briefly followed the convoy before veering off, the agency said.

Russian shelling and rocket strikes on Sunday continued to pummel Ukraine’s south and east, as local Ukrainian officials reported that at least two civilians were killed and eight others were wounded in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson provinces.

A woman was wounded and a railway station turned into a smoldering ruin amid heavy shelling in the eastern city of Kostiantynivka, according to the head of the municipal military administration. Ukraine’s public broadcaster, Suspilne, cited local police as saying that the strikes also damaged an Orthodox church, more than a dozen residential buildings and dozens of shops, a post office, schools and local government offices.

Russia and Ukraine also continued to trade nightly drone attacks, with Ukraine’s air defenses shooting down 16 of 18 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched overnight by Moscow. A Russian drone on Sunday morning struck an unspecified facility in Ukraine’s western Khmelnytskyi region, the regional military administration reported without giving details.

Meanwhile, Russia’s defense ministry on Sunday morning reported it had downed seven Ukrainian drones — four over the Black Sea and three over Russia’s southern Belgorod region. It didn’t immediately mention any casualties or damage.


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This story has been corrected to show that the monetary figure in the quote from Ukraine’s defense minister is $150 billion, not $100 billion.

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