Get Ukraine more weapons now, urge European ministers in Kyiv

KYIV — it’s all about the weapons — and we’ll do everything we can to get them to Kyiv.

That was the message from Nordic and Baltic ministers who arrived in the snow-shrouded Ukrainian capital on Monday morning.

The group – which includes foreign ministers from Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden – represents the largest high-level delegation to visit Kyiv since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February .

Defense aid is vital, with ministers speaking with POLITICO in Ukraine underlining that urgent aid is needed to help keep critical infrastructure running amid the Russian attacks.

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Rinsalu said “the paradigm of Western support needs to change”.

Sitting in a small compartment of a train on Sunday night, the minister said arms aid to Ukraine could no longer be a “gradual” response to Russia’s escalating moves – and more weapons should be provided “without warning”.

The Estonian minister called for a two-pronged approach: giving Ukraine a “shield” and a “sword”.

Shield, he said, “means all kinds of air defense systems” while Talwar “includes long-range missiles, so that they can reach even the places from where the missiles are intended to destroy their civilian infrastructure.” ”

In Kyiv, the ministers stressed the importance of greater defense assistance.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said Monday amid meetings with Ukrainian officials that Ukraine’s partners “need to take into account the need to provide air defense systems to Ukraine so that we can prevent the Russians from hitting us with new equipment.” Provide air defense systems as part of the winter aid package.

Others echoed the view that military aid should remain at the top of the agenda for Western partners.

Central Kyiv Monday morning | Lily Bayer / Political

“Even though there are very urgent needs,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said, “from my side I think I would advocate that we cannot forget that the main task is that we have to help Ukraine win the war.” Is required.

The Lithuanian minister, who has been pushing Western governments to provide more tanks to the Ukrainian military, said that “Russia is capable of creating problems if it is subject to sanctions” and that “the only way to stop this is to let Ukraine win”. “

In the capital city, this message was echoed by Ukrainian officials.

“I would say the most important thing is that which can save our people and help us survive the winter,” Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishina said in an interview on Monday.

“First and foremost are air defense systems and missiles for these systems,” she said, “as much as possible.”

refugee wave

European politicians traveled to Ukraine in a symbolic gesture of support for Ukraine, a day before a NATO ministers’ meeting in Bucharest, as it continues to battle Russian forces and missile attacks on vital infrastructure in civilian winter temperatures. deal with the effects of

Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto expressed his views on the city on Monday morning, saying, “It is very sad to see the buildings and facilities being destroyed.”

The Nordic and Baltic ministers’ first stop in Kyiv was the location of damaged energy infrastructure and discussions with the head of energy company Ukrainergo about continued operational challenges.

“People are watching and suffering during these bombings, power cuts, water cuts,” Finland’s Haavisto said, adding: “I think all you can see all around is aggression against civilians.”

European governments are now considering ways to help Ukraine meet its urgent needs.

“We get here in the middle of winter, it’s easy to see that it’s a difficult time for a country that has, you know, been subjected to so many terrible bomb attacks from Russia,” said Sweden’s Bilstrom.

Europe can do “a lot” to help, he said, pointing to the need for more equipment and rebuilding the energy grid system.

Also, Russia’s targeting of civilian infrastructure is raising the prospect of another refugee wave. “I think there is a lot of concern about this,” said Lithuania’s Landsbergis.

The foreign ministers of Latvia, Sweden, Iceland, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland and Norway had an informal discussion on the train to Kyiv. Lily Bayer / Political

Speaking on the train ride to Kyiv, the Lithuanian minister said that “when the first wave of refugees arrived in Europe earlier this year, a lot of the problems were solved by NGOs, supported by the government – and by the people themselves.”

Now, however, “the situation is a bit different,” the minister acknowledged.

“Governments have to take more steps,” he said, “and I think the EU – all of us together – can do more” to help citizens who “want to move to safer areas within Ukraine”. Wanted for”. ,