Ukraine refuses to make concessions, requests more Western weapons

Kyiv/Moscow, May 22 (EFE).- Ukraine, which is hoping that the arrival of more Western weaponry will help it balance its own military forces against those of Russia and allow it to mount counterattacks to take back territory now under Russian control, on Sunday reiterated its refusal to make any concessions to Moscow.

“To bargain with a country that has taken hostages? Well, we have a better idea. The world has to agree on the transfer of MLRS (self-propelled multiple rocketlauncher) systems to Ukraine and other necessary heavy weapons to unblock the Black Sea. Then we will do everything ourselves,” Mikhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, wrote on Twitter.

The official, a member of the Ukrainian delegation that participated in the talks with Russia during the first weeks of the conflict, talks which are currently paralyzed, made his remarks in response to suggestions in the US press that Kyiv may negotiate with Moscow to unblock its ports along its Black Sea coast.

With the recent fall of the city of Mariupol to the Russians, Moscow currently controls a coastal corridor from its own territory to the Crimean Peninsula, which is annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Last week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko, linked unblocking the Ukrainian ports to the lifting of Western sanctions on Russian exports.

Zelenskyy, who has accused Russia of stealing Ukrainian wheat in the parts of the country Moscow’s military forces have occupied, said that the Russian blockade had immobilized the shipment of 22 million tons of grain.

“We have to unblock that route, because there’s a (food) crisis. It can be done in different ways and one of them is militarily. So, we’re asking our partners for the necessary weaponry to do that,” he said.

The rearming of the Ukrainian military with heavy Western weaponry is considered a key element in the ongoing war, above all with an eye to containing the Russian offensive currently under way in eastern Ukraine, particularly in the Lugansk region, where the Kremlin’s troops control more than 90 percent of the territory, according to Ukrainian authorities.

“The situation is serious. It’s a race against the clock. We must get the Western armaments before Russia builds up reserves to develop its offensive,” a Ukrainian military expert, retired Col. Oleg Zhdanov, said on his Youtube channel.

He added that even if Ukraine had to cede control of Severodonetsk, one of its bastions in the northern Lugansk region, to Russia, it would be “just a defeat, not a catastrophe.”

“The important thing is to conserve the troops,” emphasized Zhdanov, who predicted that with Western armament the Ukrainian army will qualitatively improve itself and, within a few weeks, will be in shape to launch offensives to reconquer territory currently under Russian control.

On the other hand, he said that Russian land forces have sustained huge losses of personnel and equipment over the three months of fighting and are presently only able to replace the equipment lost with old tanks and other weaponry, rather than newer, more up-to-date and useful arms.

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden signed the latest package of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine – totaling $40 billion – which will considerably increase the flow of Western weaponry to the former Soviet republic.

In addition, the schedule for Monday morning includes the second meeting of the military contact group for Ukraine, with the participation of the defense ministers of more than 40 countries and where Kyiv hopes that a decision will be made to deliver to Ukraine the self-propelled multiple rocketlaunchers it says it needs.

The M270 MLRS rocketlauncher system is armored and can fire assorted types of rockets that can travel up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) and which Ukrainian military sources say would enable Kyiv to partially compensate for Russia’s current air superiority in the region.

In any case, Ukraine is preparing for a prolonged war, and the Supreme Rada, or Parliament, in Kyiv on Sunday extended martial law and the general war mobilization until Aug. 23, 2022, measures under which Zelenskyy says the country has been able to amass an army of 700,000 troops.

Meanwhile, the Russian military command on Sunday only provided a list of Ukrainian targets it said it had destroyed over the past 24 hours without providing an evaluation of the overall situation on different fronts.

“As a result of the air attacks, more than 210 nationalists were eliminated and 38 units of heavy armament were destroyed,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said.

According to Moscow, since the start of its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian forces have destroyed 174 Ukrainian aircraft, 125 helicopters and 997 drones.

In addition, Russian military sources said that as of Sunday the Ukrainian armed forces have lost 317 anti-air missile systems, 3,198 tanks and other armored vehicles, 408 self-propelled multiple rocketlaunchers, 1,622 artillery pieces and 3,077 other military vehicles.

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