Zelenskyy calls allies' delay of military support 'unacceptable'

A resident looks at a damaged apartment building after a Russian drone attack in Odesa, Ukraine, March 2, 2024. [AFP]

In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday urged Western allies to provide weapons to Ukraine, stressing that delays in supplying missile defense systems will cost more Ukrainian lives.

"When lives are lost, and partners are simply playing internal political games or disputes that limit our defense, it's impossible to understand. It's unacceptable. And it will be impossible to forget — the world will remember this," he said.

Zelenskyy called out Ukraine's allies after at least seven people, including a toddler and a woman and her infant, died in a Russian drone strike Saturday on an apartment block in the southern Ukrainian port city of Odesa, regional authorities said.

"Rescuers in Odesa have just uncovered the bodies of a mother with a three-month-old baby," Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said in a post on his Telegram channel.

At least eight people were injured. Rescuers continue to sift through the rubble for more people, according to Oleh Kiper, Odesa regional governor.

At least three more people were killed in separate shelling attacks on the front-line Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, Ukrainian officials said.

In Washington, officials are viewing the shortage of weapons and ammunition in Ukraine and the drop off in U.S. supply shipments with increasing alarm. It has been more than two months since the U.S. last sent military supplies to Ukraine, according to The Associated Press.

Republicans refuse to vote on support

House Speaker Mike Johnson has refused to bring to a vote the $95 billion foreign aid package passed by the Senate. That decision could stall the package for weeks after an already monthslong wait in Congress.

U.S. Defense officials are discussing options that could include tapping existing Pentagon stockpiles before Congress approves funding to replenish them, according to Senator Jack Reed, the chairperson of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

At a White House meeting this week, U.S. President Joe Biden, the two top Democrats in Congress, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell all urged Johnson to put to a vote the Senate-passed package, which would provide $60 billion worth of assistance for Kyiv.

Germany investigates reported leak

Germany said Saturday it is investigating a purportedly leaked call after Moscow said a recording of German officers showed them discussing weapons for Ukraine and a potential strike by Kyiv on a bridge in Crimea.

A German defense ministry spokesperson said the Federal Office for Military Counterintelligence was probing what appeared to be a case of eavesdropping, and the possibility that the recording had been altered.

During a visit to Rome on Saturday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the potential leak "very serious," adding it was "now being clarified very carefully, very intensively and very quickly."

Participants in the call allegedly discussed the possible delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Kyiv. Scholz so far has publicly and firmly refused to send such weapons to Ukraine to avoid any military escalation between NATO and Russia.

The officials in the leaked call also allegedly talked about the training of Ukrainian soldiers and assorted possible military targets.

The leaked call was posted on Telegram by Margarita Simonyan, a Russian state TV journalist and the head of Russia Today.

Reuters listened to the 38-minute recording but could not independently confirm its authenticity.

Roderich Kiesewetter, a member of the German Parliament, however, told the Handelsblatt newspaper that he considered the reports to be authentic.

The Russian Embassy in Berlin did not respond to an email request for comment Saturday about allegations of possible spying.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke to journalists on Saturday about "cunning plans of the Bundeswehr [German armed forces], which became apparent due to the publication of this audio recording. This is a blatant self-exposure."

Dutch leader agrees to $2.2 billion

Zelenskyy announced Friday that he and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte signed a security agreement that will provide Kyiv with $2.2 billion in military aid this year.

Zelenskyy announced details of the plan on his social media accounts after the two leaders met and held talks in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city and a frequent target for Russian attacks.

Ukraine warned last month it had received less than a third of the 1 million artillery shells the European Union had promised to deliver and was struggling to hold its defenses.

It withdrew its forces from the eastern town of Avdiivka in February amid difficulty securing ammunition, handing Moscow its first major territorial gain in more than a year.