Ukrainian defence minister: We can win this war, but we need support

As Russia steps up its offensive in Ukraine, the country’s leadership is stressing the urgent need for more weapons and soldiers to hold the front. In an exclusive interview for Czech Radio, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Rustem Umerov spoke about the military’s most urgent needs, the call to action for Ukrainian citizens abroad and the need to boost Ukraine’s own weapons‘ production capacity with foreign investment.

Rustem Umerov | Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ U. S. Secretary of Defense,  CC BY 2.0

News from the frontline is not good. Russian forces have been making further gains in several places across the 1,200 km frontline and have intensified air strikes against both cities and critical infrastructure, making some pundits question whether Ukraine can still win this war. Defence Minister Rustem Umerov said his country is determined to win, but stressed the need for timely assistance from its allies.

“I would say the intensity of this war is so high that nobody has experienced it since the Second World War. This is a war that has included both the conventional and the technological war paradigms. At this stage, with the conventional, it is a very simple formula. You have to have breakthrough technology to win the war. You need quantity and quality. At this stage, the enemy has significant numbers of artillery, air superiority, sea domains. We need to fight at sea, on land, in the air. We need to have superiority over something. At this stage, Ukraine unfortunately does not have superiority in the air and in air defence. Any weapon that has a precision superiority over the enemy is always welcome. We will be glad to have it and implement it, just as we did with the drones.”

F-16 fighter jet | Photo: wietzenu,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

If asked to name three priorities of the greatest urgency for you at the moment, what would those be, apart from ammunition?

“I would say air defence, because this is 97% of how they are killing civilians. Air strikes are targeted to civilians, national critical infrastructure and arms. So air defence and interceptors, missiles and artillery. This is how we can hold them back, manoeuvre, suppress them. And of course, any long-range and mid-range missiles are also welcome. So those are probably the top things, as of today.”

Umerov confirmed that plans to provide Kyiv with F-16 fighter jets by its allies are underway and running according to plan, but in view of security refused to provide details. He greatly welcomed the Czech initiative to secure 1.5 million rounds of sorely needed artillery shells for Ukraine purchased from countries in Africa and Asia with financial support from close to 20 states. The shells should be gradually delivered over the next 12 months and Umerov said Ukraine appreciated not just the initiative, but the fact that Czechia was taking care of the whole logistics operation.

Tanks T-72 for Ukraine | Photo: ČT24

„We have much gratitude for the Czech leadership, for the Czech people, for their support. It's big. It is an opportunity for us, because the Czech Republic consolidates, buys, produces, obtains the ammunition and arms and then provides it to us. They are doing a job that somebody has to do. So at this stage, we appreciate that the Czech initiative works and that consolidation is being done by the Czech Republic. We appreciate it. And it is important.”

The minister said any initiative –bilateral or multi-lateral – that would provide Ukraine with weapons is greatly appreciated. He pointed out that Ukraine itself is producing arms for the battlefield and would be in a position to produce much more with financial support from foreign investors.

“We have local production, where we have tripled capacity in the last year. We can produce more than we can finance. So we would appreciate any country that would invest in our production facilities in Ukraine. We have the facilities built and operating and they could produce more if somebody would finance them.

“We are also obtaining military aid, either through the UDCG (Ukraine Defense Contact Group) or the Ramstein format or bilateral relations. Furthermore, there are the initiatives that are being formed by some countries, which actually speed up the process. They create a different channel to supply us with ammunition, arms, APCs or fighting vehicles. Any and all support for the Ukrainian fight for the Continent is much appreciated.“

Minister Umerov said that the ministry has produced a roadmap whereby the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense can be a co-investor in production along with Western partners and that the ministry is capable of closing long-term agreements with any potential foreign investor. He stressed that at this time the capacity of Ukraine is much higher than the capacity of the Continent to produce arms and ammunition –if only the finances were available.

The Ukrainian defense minister also had a message for the tens of thousands of Ukrainian men who are now outside Ukraine and could potentially serve their country.

Ukrainian soldiers | Photo: Vadim Kovalyov,  Ministry of Defense of Ukraine,  Flickr,   CC BY-SA 2.0

“We have passed the law on mobilization, which explains justice for everyone, as well as the rights and obligations of our citizens. I think there are many motivational factors. We're paying a decent salary. We are training them. We are cooperating. We're providing them with Western equipment. So we're working on all the possibilities to make sure that the soldiers are fit, equipped and trained. I would like to say that serving a country is an honor, not a punishment. The only thing I can do is to set the standards, high standards, and assure them that they will get equipped, trained and their life will be saved with Western high-tech, high-precision equipment. And it is the choice of every citizen. As I said, we give everything for them to feel safe, to understand the perimeter, to understand the rules, to be safe and serve their country.”

Despite the intensified ground and air assaults by Russia, Ukraine’s defense minister says his country is determined to win this war –for the sake of its own freedom and that of others.

“We are capable of winning the war. We need support. We need more arms. We need diplomatic, political, and financial support. But we can win the war. So, at this stage, anything that gives us superiority over the enemy, I will use. The best resource is bright, visionary, motivated people. And we have these people in Ukraine. We have people that are motivated and courageous.”

Listen to the full interview in audio

Author: Josef Pazderka | Source: Český rozhlas
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