US calls on Ukraine’s allies for quick supply of weapons

Russia says it is increasing arms production on a ‘grand scale’

An elderly woman stands near a burning building following shelling in Kostyantynivka, Donetsk region amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photograph: Sergey Shestak/Getty Images

The United States urged Ukraine’s allies to supply it with promised weapons “fully and quickly” and said Kyiv was expecting delivery of more than 150 German-made Leopard tanks, as Russia said it was ramping up its own arms production “on a grand scale”.

Moscow’s forces claimed control of another village near Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, and Kyiv said an alleged clash between a Russian warplane and a US drone over the Black Sea showed that Moscow wanted to expand the conflict.

“Members of this contact group have shown great leadership in building up the capabilities that Ukraine needs ... including more than nine brigades of armoured vehicles,” US defence secretary Lloyd Austin told officials from dozens of states that supply arms to Kyiv.

“Nine countries have now committed to providing more than 150 Leopard tanks,” he said, adding that advanced air-defence and missile systems had also been pledged.

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“But we are now at a crucial time in the course of Ukraine’s fight for freedom. And we must all demonstrate our continued resolve and unity. That means following through on our commitments – fully and quickly.”

Kyiv says it can expel Russia’s invasion force if it has enough arms and ammunition, but often complains that western states are slow to make the relevant decisions and then deliver the material.

A Ukrainian soldier carries a portable anti-aircraft missile system in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine. Photograph: Roman Chop/AP

Russia is accelerating arms production one year into an all-out invasion of Ukraine that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions. Analysts say the Kremlin remains convinced it can outlast Ukraine and its allies, given Russia’s 140 million population, huge industrial capacity and the crushing political and social control exerted by the regime of veteran president Vladimir Putin.

Using Russia’s official euphemism for the invasion, Mr Putin told the prosecutor general’s office in Moscow to ensure “the timely fulfilment of obligations to supply the necessary weapons, equipment, ammunition and gear for the needs of the ‘special military operation’.”

“In addition, prosecutors should provide supervisory support for the modernisation of defence industry enterprises, including projects to build up their capacity to produce additional weapons. This work is being done on a grand scale. This is something we desperately need now and will use in the future,” he said.

Russia’s Wagner mercenary group claimed to have seized the village of Zaliznyanske north of Bakhmut as it tries to surround Ukrainian forces in the eastern road and rail hub.

After a US military drone crashed into the Black Sea near occupied Crimea following what Washington said was a collision with a Russian warplane, Ukrainian national security and defence council secretary Oleksiy Danilov said Mr Putin had gone “all-in” on the war.

“The incident . . . is a signal of Putin’s readiness to expand the conflict zone and drag in other parties,” he added.

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said “the only way to prevent such incidents is actually to kick Russia out of Crimea.”

“As long as Russia controls Crimea, these kinds of incidents will be inevitable and the Black Sea will not be a safe place,” he told the BBC.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe