Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday ruled out a cease-fire in his country’s war with Russia, saying the Kremlin’s forces would use the pause to rearm and regroup before overwhelming Kyiv’s troops.
“A pause on the Ukrainian battlefield will not mean a pause in the war,” Zelenskyy said during a visit to Estonia.
“A pause would play into (Russia’s) hands,” he said. “It might crush us afterward.”
Limited cease-fires have occasionally been proposed since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022 but have never taken hold.
Both sides are scrambling to replenish their weapons after 22 months of fighting and with the prospect of a protracted conflict. With the roughly 630-mile front line mostly static during freezing winter weather, they both require artillery shells, missiles and drones that enable long-range strikes.
Zelenskyy noted that Moscow is allegedly buying artillery shells and missiles from North Korea and drones from Iran.
Zelenskyy was in the Estonian capital Tallinn as part of a two-day swing through Baltic countries which have been among Ukraine’s staunchest supporters in the war.
The Ukrainian president is pressing allies to provide his country with more support, after already receiving billions of dollars in military aid from its Western allies.
“Ukraine needs more, it needs better weapons," Estonian President Alar Karis said during a joint news conference with Zelenskyy at the Presidential Palace.
“We must boost military production capabilities so that Ukraine may get what it needs,” he said. “And it’s not tomorrow, they should get it today.”
Karis noted that European Union countries have so far provided $93 billion of support for Ukraine.
But the flow of support has slowed, alarming Ukrainians who would find it hard to stand alone against their bigger neighbor.
A plan by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to send $60 billion in new funding to Kyiv is being held up in Congress. Europe’s pledge in March to provide 1 million artillery shells within 12 months has fallen short, with only about 300,000 delivered so far.
Zelenskyy says Ukraine particularly needs air defense systems to fend off Russian aerial onslaughts that have repeatedly hit civilian areas, though Moscow officials insist they aim only at military targets.
Recent massive Russian barrages — more than 500 drones and missiles were fired between Dec. 29 and Jan. 2, according to officials in Kyiv — are using up Ukraine’s air defense resources and leaving the country vulnerable unless it can secure further weapons supplies.
Zelenskyy won a pledge of more support from Lithuania on Wednesday, and was heading to Latvia after Estonia.
The small eastern European countries are among Ukraine’s staunchest political, financial and military supporters. Some people in the Baltics worry that they could be Moscow’s next target.
The three countries were seized and annexed by Josef Stalin during World War II and regained independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. They joined NATO in 2004, placing themselves under the military protection of the U.S. and its Western allies.
A Russian S-300 missile hit a hotel in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, late Wednesday, injuring 13 people including a Turkish journalist, regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said. The city has been attacked for four consecutive nights, the governor said.
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