Russia-Ukraine war: Zelenskiy hails air defence coalition formed by western allies

Ukrainian president says 20-nation coalition was formed at virtual meeting of broader group of nations that provide military aid

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has welcomed the formation by western allies on Thursday of a 20-nation coalition to boost Ukrainian air defences, “enabling our cities and villages to be better protected”.

Mr Zelenskiy said the group was formed at a virtual meeting of the Ramstein group examining Ukraine’s military needs. Germany said it and France would be taking on leading roles.

The Ramstein group comprises defence chiefs of about 50 countries that provide military aid to Ukraine.

“Not everything can be disclosed publicly at this time, but the Ukrainian air shield is becoming stronger every month,” Mr Zelenskiy said.


Mr Zelenskiy has long pointed to improved air defence as a key element to help keep Ukrainian cities safe from Russian air strikes – including on energy infrastructure – as wintry weather takes hold.

At different points in the war, about to extend into its 21st month, Russia has launched attacks on Ukrainian power stations and other infrastructure. Missile and drone strikes have also hit apartment blocks and other civilian sites, though Russia denies targeting civilians.

Ukraine is also to receive additional assistance from Ramstein partners including a German air defence package announced this week during a visit to Kyiv by the German defence minister, Boris Pistorius.

Ukraine’s defence minister, Rustem Umerov, also announced a Dutch package and Estonian financing for help with information technology.

Lithuania said it delivered a new package of military aid to Ukraine comprising three million bullets, remote detonation systems and winter equipment.

Ukraine’s military commander-in-chief, Gen Valery Zaluzhniy, said on Telegram that he had taken part in the meeting for the first time and described the situation along the 1,000km (600-mile) front as “complicated but controllable”.

The first snow of the year fell in Kyiv on Wednesday, raising concerns about a potential Russian attack on the country’s energy infrastructure.

Last October, Russia began relentless waves of attacks on critical infrastructure that lasted for months and left millions of people without heating, electricity or water for parts of the winter.

This year, there have been only sporadic such attacks so far, but many fear that Moscow is merely waiting for the onset of sub-zero temperatures, in order to cause maximum disruption and distress. – Guardian