Zelenskyy warns 'artificial deficit' of weapons gives Russia breathing space at security conference

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a speech at the Munich Security Conference at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich, Germany, Feb. 17, 2024.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a speech at the Munich Security Conference at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich, Germany, Feb. 17, 2024. Copyright Matthias Schrader/Copyright 2024 The AP.
Copyright Matthias Schrader/Copyright 2024 The AP.
By Euronews, AP
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Ukraine's top military commander announced a withdrawal of troops from Avdiivka on Saturday in a bid to preserve troops' lives as the country struggles to match Russia's firepower.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned on Saturday that an "artificial deficit" of weapons gives Russia breathing space, hours after his top military official announced a withdrawal from Avdiivka due to heavy Russian fire.

Speaking on the second day of the annual Munich Security Conference, Zelenskyy emphasised that limited ammunition supplies and personnel shortages are hindering the country's defensive stance against Russia as the war approaches its second anniversary.

“Ukrainians have proven that we can force Russia to retreat,” he said. “We can get our land back, and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin can lose, and this has already happened more than once on the battlefield."

He highlighted the need for artillery and long-range weapons, warning that an "artificial deficit" of weapons - which refers to a situation where there is a deliberate or intentional shortage of weapons - gives Russia breathing space. 

His warning came hours after Ukrainian commander Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi said he had made the decision to withdraw troops from the eastern city of Avdiivka to avoid encirclement and “preserve the lives and health of servicemen."

Zelenskyy described the decision as "correct", emphasising the importance of safeguarding soldiers' lives. He indicated that Russia's actions in attacking Avdiivka have yielded minimal gains. “With all the power that they had” since October and lost thousands of soldiers — “that's what Russia has achieved. It's a depletion of their army.”

“We're just waiting for weapons that we're short of,” he further highlighted the deficiency in long-range weapons. “That's why our weapon today is our soldiers, our people.”

'We have to outsmart Russia'

Also at the conference, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU's executive would unveil a defence industrial strategy proposal within three weeks and that a defence innovation office in Ukraine would also be established.

The proposal aims to boost defence spending overall and implement joint procurement measures, with a focus on enhancing the interoperability of EU systems. In addition, a European defence industry with good jobs is to be promoted. 

"We have to outsmart Russia. And you see that Ukraine, where rightfully every life counts, they are getting very smart now, for example, to take our legacy weapon systems and upgrade them with artificial intelligence, to be more precise, to be more targeted," she told the gathering.

"So it's very fascinating to see also the development of the production of drones. And this is the reason why we will integrate now Ukraine in our defence programmes," she said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose nation stands as Ukraine's second-largest military provider following the US, reiterated his plea for increased contributions from other European nations. 

He also underscored the significance of America's military assistance since the onset of the conflict as a US package of some $60 billion (€55.6 billion) for Kyiv is being held up by political disagreements among American lawmakers.

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