Zelensky meets with the leaders of the Baltic countries

The Ukrainian president said that Ukraine has “shown the world that it is possible to stop the Russian army.”

The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, arrived in the Estonian capital on Thursday to meet with the country’s leaders on the second day of his trip through the small Baltic states, where there is great concern about the aggression of neighboring Russia.

Zelensky arrived in Tallinn on Wednesday evening after starting his Baltic tour in Lithuania. He will meet with the President and Prime Minister of Estonia and address the parliament before travelling to Latvia.

In Lithuania’s capital, Vlnius, on Wednesday, Zelensky said Ukraine has shown the world that the Russian army can be stopped.

He said Ukraine still needs to strengthen its air defenses against Russia’s intensified missile and drone strikes and replenish its ammunition supplies as long-range strikes become the main feature of this winter’s fighting. “We have shown that Russia can be stopped, that deterrence is possible,” he said after speaking with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on his first trip abroad of the year, in a reminiscence of what he said during his New Year’s Eve message.

However, Russia’s massive bombardments (more than 500 drones and missiles were fired between December 29 and January 2, according to officials in Kiev) are depleting Ukraine’s weapons stockpiles. “We are badly short of modern air defense systems,” Zelensky said in Vilnius, noting that they are “what we need most.”

However, he acknowledged that reserves are low in countries that could provide such equipment. “The stores are empty. And there are many challenges for global defense,” he said.

Ukraine hoped to accelerate the development of its national defence industry and to establish joint projects with foreign Governments to accelerate the production of ammunition and weapons, as Russia also announced recently.

Ukrainian officials who travelled with Zelensky signed several documents on cooperation in joint arms production with Lithuania. Similar agreements are expected in the other Baltic countries.

Nauseda said Lithuania will send ammunition, generators and detonation systems to Ukraine this month, and will provide armoured personnel carriers in February. It has approved 200 million euros ($219 million) in support of Kiev, he stated.

Zelensky said on his official Telegram channel that the focus of his two-day trip to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia is security concerns, Ukraine’s hopes of joining the European Union and NATO and building partnerships in the production of drones and electronic warfare capabilities.

“We know how exhausting this long-running war is and we are interested in Ukraine’s complete victory as soon as possible,” Nauseda told reporters.

The small countries of Eastern Europe are among Ukraine’s strongest political, financial and military supporters, and some in the Baltic countries fear that they may be Moscow’s next target.

In his Telegram message, Zelensky expressed gratitude to the Baltic countries for their “intransigent” support for Ukraine over the past 10 years, referring to 2014, when Russia’s aggression began with the annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

Zelensky’s international diplomacy during the war has been instrumental in keeping the pressure on friendly countries to continue supplying Kiev with billions of dollars in armaments, including German Leopard tanks, American Patriot missile systems, and British Storm Shadow cruise missiles, even achieving an aid that bypassed the Congress in the case of the U.S.

However, that support has declined recently. A plan by US President Joe Biden’s administration to send billions of dollars in additional aid to Kiev is stalled in Congress, and Europe’s March pledge to provide 1 million artillery shells in 12 months has fallen short, with only about 300,000 given at the moment.

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