Ammunition shortage hurting Ukraine, Zelenskyy tells Munich meeting

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Ukraine’s fightback against Russian troops is being limited by a lack of long-range missiles and artillery shells, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday, making a fresh appeal for more weapons.

His call at the gathering of 180 leaders and defense chiefs at the Munich Security Conference comes at a critical juncture, with Ukraine’s troops forced to withdraw from the frontline city of Avdiivka to avoid being encircled.

The situation in the flashpoint city illustrates the weapons shortage facing his troops, said the Ukrainian president, a day after winning pacts anchoring longer-term security for his country.

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“Ukrainians have proven that we can force Russia to retreat,” he said, adding that “our actions are limited only by the sufficiency and length of the range of our strength... (the) Avdiivka situation proves this,” said Zelenskyy.

“Keeping Ukraine in artificial deficits of weapons, particularly in deficits of artillery and long-range capabilities, allows Putin to adapt to the current intensity of the war.”

With the war about to enter its third year, Ukraine is under mounting pressure over an ammunition shortfall.

The European Union has admitted that it will only be able to provide only half the one million artillery shells it had promised to send by March.

The long-term future of billions of dollars of Western aid is also in doubt, with a possible $60-billion package of military aid held up in Washington since last year because of wrangling in Congress.

Zelenskyy, who will meet US Vice President Kamala Harris later Saturday, said he hoped that the security deals with Berlin and Paris would give “an impulse to the US” efforts for his country.

With the US in the throes of an election that could led to a return of Donald Trump to the White House, concerns have grown over the future of US aid to Ukraine and its commitment to NATO.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said there was a “vital and urgent need for the US to decide on a package for Ukraine because they need that support.”

“Now it’s for the US to deliver what they have promised,” he added in Munich.

Israel-Hamas war in focus

But while Ukraine was once the main conflict on the minds of world leaders, Israel’s war with Hamas and the ensuing escalating crisis in the Middle East have also sent diplomats scrambling for answers.

Both conflicts are dominating talks in Munich, both on stage and on the sidelines.

G7 foreign ministers are expected to seek ways to alleviate civilian suffering in Gaza, and use the occasion to consult with key players in the Middle East crisis.

In separate sessions, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog and Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani will lay out their visions for establishing peace in the region.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will also be closely watched for any hints on negotiations with Israel ahead of its planned incursion on the overcrowded Gazan border city Rafah.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Friday his country would coordinate with Egypt before launching any military offensive in Rafah.

Fears had been growing for the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled the north of Gaza to Rafah as Israeli troops advanced into the territory to wage war on Hamas.

But Israel is now planning a major operation in the city. With the border to Egypt closed, nearly 1.5 million Palestinians are essentially trapped there.

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Katz said US President Joe Biden would also be briefed on any military offensive, as he stressed his country’s determination to push ahead with the operation to root out Hamas fighters.

“If al-Sinwar and the Hamas murderers think that they can find protection in Rafah, it will not happen,” he said, referring to Hamas chief Yahya al-Sinwar.

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