Zelenskyy urges joint weapons production in Europe to defend against Russia


Hundreds of Ukrainian drones are displayed before being sent to the front line to be used against Russian forces, in Kyiv, Ukraine, July 25, 2023. [AP Photo]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed confidence that Russia could be defeated and warned that the war in Ukraine has shown that Europe should develop a joint weapons production with Ukraine and build a sufficient weapons arsenal for its defense.

“Two years of this war have proven that Europe needs its own sufficient arsenal for the defense of freedom. Its own capabilities to ensure defense. Its own potential that will allow all of Europe, or any part of it, to stand and preserve itself under any global situation,” he said.

Zelenskyy made the comments via a video link at a Stockholm defense conference Sunday, while Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom expressed his country’s commitment to support Kyiv.

“Sweden’s military, political, and economic support for Ukraine remains the Swedish government’s main foreign policy task in the coming years,” he posted during the event on X, formerly Twitter, the messaging app.

Japan also pledged its support to Kyiv Sunday when Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa made an unannounced visit, becoming the first official foreign visitor in the Ukrainian capital in 2024.

"Japan is determined to continue to support Ukraine so that peace can return to Ukraine,” Kamikawa said through an interpreter at a joint news conference with her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba.

Kamikawa, who was forced into a bomb shelter by an air alert in Kyiv, condemned Russia’s missile and drone attacks on civilians, particularly on New Year’s Day, adding that her country would provide an additional $37 million to a NATO trust fund to help purchase drone-detection systems.

Russia deployed almost 300 missiles and more than 200 drones in attacks in the last days of 2023 and the first days of 2024, according to the Reuters news agency.

Russia attacks

Russia launched 28 attack drones and three cruise missiles at Ukraine overnight, Ukraine’s air force said Sunday, adding that its air defense systems destroyed 21 of the drones.

The air force said on its Telegram messaging channel that Russia mainly targeted the south and east of Ukraine but did not say what happened to the three cruise missiles.
Reuters could not independently verify the report. There was no immediate comment from Russia.

Two people were killed, and several others wounded in Russian shelling of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, the head of the city administration, Roman Mrochko, said. In Ukraine's northeast Kharkiv region, a man was killed, and two other civilians wounded in Russian shelling of the Kupiansk district Sunday.

A deadly Russian missile strike hit the eastern Ukrainian city of Pokrovsk on Saturday, about 80 kilometers northwest of Donetsk, the governor of the Ukrainian-held part of the region, Vadym Filashkin, wrote on Telegram.

"Eleven dead, including five children — these are the consequences for now of strikes on Pokrovsk district," Filashkin said, posting pictures of rescue squads sifting through large piles of smoldering rubble in the dark along with a burned-out vehicle.

The British defense ministry said Sunday that Rosgvardia, the Russian National Guard, is seeking to boost its “resources and personnel,” because of “upheavals” in Russia’s internal security caused by its war on Ukraine.

The daily ministry report said portions of the mercenary Wagner Group came under the umbrella of Rosgvardia in October, followed this month by the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic “Vostok” Battalion.

Moscow has been making moves to dissolve the breakaway region’s Kaskad group, which specializes in drone operations, and “subordinate” parts of it to Rosgvardia, according to the ministry.

These moves, along with the authorization Russia gave Rosgvardia this past summer to use heavier weaponry, “will likely represent a significant increase” in Russia’s combat effectiveness, the British ministry said.

Drones - North Korea

The Kharkiv region prosecutor's office provided evidence Saturday indicating Russia may have attacked Ukraine with missiles supplied by North Korea.

Examining fragments of one of several missiles that hit the city of Kharkiv on January 2, Dmytro Chubenko, spokesperson for the prosecutor's office, said it was visually and technically different from Russian models.

Chubenko would not provide the missile's exact model name but showed remnants to reporters and said its production method was not very modern. He said it differed from the standard Iskander missiles that had previously struck Kharkiv.

“This missile is similar to one of the North Korean missiles," Chubenko said, adding that its diameter was slightly larger than a Russian Iskander missile and its nozzle, internal electrical wiring and rear parts were different.

Russia and Ukraine are ramping up their drone production as UAVs – unmanned aerial vehicles - have been widely used by both sides since the beginning of the war.

Russia plans to domestically produce more than 32,000 drones each year by 2030, accounting for 70% of its drone stockpile, at the cost of $7.66 billion, the TASS news agency cited First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov as saying Saturday.

"This is almost three times higher than current production volumes,” Belousov told TASS.

Ukraine said in December it planned to produce more than 11,000 medium- and long-range attack drones in 2024, as well as 1 million FPV, or first-person-view, drones that are widely in demand on the front line.

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