RIGA, Dec 19 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday asked Western leaders meeting in Latvia, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to supply a wide range of weapons systems.
“I ask you to increase the possibility of supplying air defence systems to our country, and to help speed up the relevant decisions to be taken by our partners,” Zelenskiy asked Sunak during his speech on a video link, addressing a meeting in Riga of leaders of countries in the Joint Expeditionary Force.
The British-led grouping, configured to respond rapidly to crises in the Northern Europe, is made up of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.
While Western allies, led by the United States, have been supporting Ukraine with funding, military training and deliveries of air defence systems and other weaponry, Kyiv has said still more was needed to sustain its campaign against Russia.
In Other Developments:
* Moscow launched a “kamikaze” drone attack on Monday, hitting key infrastructure in and around Kyiv, as Russian president Vladimir Putin heads for Belarus, fuelling fears he will pressure his ex-Soviet ally to join a new offensive on Ukraine.
BELARUS – NEW FRONT?
* Russian troops that were moved to Belarus in October to become part of a regional formation will conduct tactical exercises, the Russian Interfax news agency reported on Monday, citing the Russian defence ministry.
* Belarus’ defence ministry said it had completed a series of inspections of its armed forces’ military preparedness, hours ahead of a visit of the country’s most important ally.
* Putin’s visit to Belarus comes after the recent major battlefield setbacks for Moscow, stoking speculation that the former Soviet ally could reopen a new front against Ukraine.
* Zelenskiy asked Western leaders meeting in Latvia, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to supply a wide range of weapons systems, renewing his longstanding call for more military support.
* On Sunday, Zelenskiy said the world still had heard his call for a global peace summit, despite soccer governing body FIFA’s decision to decline to allow a video message to be broadcast ahead of the soccer World Cup final in Qatar.
* Veteran U.S. diplomat Henry Kissinger said the time was approaching for a negotiated peace in Ukraine to reduce the risk of another devastating world war, but Kyiv dismissed his comments as amounting to “appeasing the aggressor.”
* Russia’s latest attacks hit “critical infrastructure” in and around Kyiv early on Monday, Ukrainian authorities said.
* That followed Friday’s 70 missile strikes in one of Russia’s biggest assaults against Ukraine since the start of the war, Ukrainian officials said.
* Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had shot down four U.S.-made HARM anti-radiation missiles over the Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, in the space of 24 hours, the state-run TASS news agency reported.
* Reuters was not able to independently verify battlefield reports.
* The power grid operator described the situation as “difficult” and said the Dnipropetrovsk region and areas in the centre and east of the country were the worst affected.
Emergency power outages affected several locations, including Kyiv city, the surrounding region and the regions of Kharkiv, Sumy, Poltava and Zaporizhzhia, operator Ukrenergo said.