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Zelensky pushes for faster military aid to avoid more deaths in Ukraine

Ukrainian emergency personnel moving remains of Russian missile
Ukrainian emergency personnel move the remains of a Russian missile onto a truck in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Friday.
(Vadim Ghirda / Associated Press)
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Western allies Friday to quicken their military support for his embattled country, warning at a major international security conference that delays would play into Russia’s hands as its invasion approaches its first anniversary.

“There is no alternative to speed, because it’s speed that life depends on,” Zelensky told the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

About 40 heads of state and government, as well as politicians and security experts from almost 100 countries, including the United States, Europe and China, were due to attend the three-day gathering.

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In his plea for more Western weapons, Zelensky compared Ukraine’s struggle against the Russian invasion to the biblical fight between David and Goliath, saying his country had David’s courage but needed help in getting the sling.

Zelensky vowed that his country would ultimately prevail over Moscow’s aggression but warned that Russia “can still destroy many lives.”

“That is why we need to hurry up,” Zelensky said. “We need the speed.”

A manufacturing plant in the small city of Lima, Ohio, is playing a critical role in the effort to arm Ukraine in its effort to beat back Russia.

Zelensky portrays Ukraine as defending Western values of freedom and democracy against tyranny and argues that his country needs to be properly provisioned to fend off Russia’s much bigger force. Western countries have sided with him, but at times they have been slow to meet his requests.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has been one of Ukraine’s main backers, though at times hesitantly, renewed pledges to help, but also insisted that Kyiv’s allies must not be hasty.

“For all the pressure to act that there doubtless is, in this decisive question, care must come before rushing, cohesion before solo performances,” said Scholz.

Berlin agreed last month to deliver German-made Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine and grant others licenses to do the same. German officials, who faced heavy pressure to take that step, have since indicated that they’re disappointed other countries haven’t come along with more.

On the Belarusian border, Ukrainian drones monitor a long expanse of marsh and woodland for a possible Russian offensive from the north.

The need to supply Ukraine with billions of dollars’ worth of military aid has at times placed strain on allied countries. Kyiv, after receiving Western pledges of tanks and more ammunition, is now hoping for fighter jets, but some countries have balked at sending them.

French President Emmanuel Macron endorsed Zelensky’s appeal.

“We must collectively be credible,” Macron told the gathering, “because it’s the only way to make Russia come back to the negotiating table in an acceptable manner and build a sustainable peace — that is, at a time and under conditions to be chosen by Ukrainians.”

For the first time in two decades, conference organizers did not invite Russian representatives to Munich. It was the latest snub as Western countries seek to isolate Russia diplomatically over the invasion of Ukraine, which began Feb. 24, 2022.

The small coal-mining town of Vuhledar on Ukraine’s eastern front line has emerged as a critical hot spot in the fight for Donetsk province.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Russia’s war in Ukraine would overshadow the conference’s proceedings. Western officials and analysts say the conflict is approaching a critical phase as it enters its second year next week.

The war is “not merely a European conflict” but has implications far beyond the continent, Pistorius said. Economies around the world have reeled from the war’s impact on grain supplies, energy prices and inflation.

Vice President Kamala Harris was set to join the leaders of France, Germany and Britain at the Munich conference.

At the same conference last year, held just days before Putin sent troops into Ukraine, Harris shared U.S. warnings that Russia was about to attack its neighbor and said, “Not since the end of the Cold War has this forum convened under such dire circumstances.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a European Union leaders’ summit, hoping for assurances that his country can one day join the bloc.

In a speech scheduled for Saturday, Harris will lay out what’s at stake in the war, and why it matters, to bolster the case for maintaining U.S. support for Ukraine for as long as it takes, the White House said.

Frans Timmermans, the executive vice president of the European Union’s executive commission, said the 27-nation EU so far has maintained unity on the issue.

Timmermans also expressed hope that China could exert pressure on Russia to end the war.

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