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LVIV, Ukraine — Irina, a middle-aged woman from the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro, broke down in tears and repeatedly apologized. At times she stifled her crying, but as she stumbled through what she was about to say, tears flowed again.
“I lost my home. friends were killed. My husband is fighting in Ukraine. They kill men, women and children. For what reason?” she said. “And why isn’t the world helping?”
The hotel receptionist in Kraków offered Irina a box of tissues. This wasn’t the moment to imply that the world is doing quite a bit – hitting Russia with unprecedented sanctions and boycotts, providing financial aid to Kyiv and supplying Ukraine’s military.
But as more evidence of Russian atrocities emerges in towns and villages north of Kyiv, and Russia appears to be preparing a new offensive in the Donbass region, Ukrainians – inside the country and the evacuees outside – argue that Western support is not enough.
They echo President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who said before a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday: “My agenda is very simple. There are only three items on it. It’s guns, guns and guns.”
That was the message delivered by a group of five Ukrainian lawmakers in Washington last week, according to Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, a former deputy prime minister in the government of Zelenskyi’s predecessor Petro Poroshenko and now an opposition lawmaker.
Just back in Ukraine this week Klympush-Tsintsadze sat with me in Lviv to share her impressions of the transatlantic mission, which included two MPs from Zelensky’s Servants of the People party, a couple from Poroshenko’s European Solidarity Party and another from the parliamentary Holos faction.
They have had meetings with top Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with Pentagon and State Department officials including Victoria Nuland, US Undersecretary of State, but have not been scheduled to meet Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, or his Deputies granted, although the parliamentary mission has the imprimatur of the President of Ukraine.
“The Pentagon and the National Security Council are more cautious than the state,” Klympush-Tsintsadze said. “It actually seems DoD [the Pentagon] holds back more than the State Department.”
US and NATO member states have been supplying Ukraine with anti-tank missiles, short-range drones and other defensive weapons, but are turning down Ukrainian requests for more offensive weapons, including warplanes, long-range artillery and drones, and tanks, fearing it risks drawing Western powers into a wider European war . Washington this week approved $100 million in security aid for Kyiv to buy Javelin anti-tank missiles. And Klympush-Tsintsadze hopes that tanks will be allowed soon.
“There is a discrepancy between the Ukrainian and American military about what we need,” and she said in Washington there is no “willingness to make the political decision that has to be made at some point” to help Ukraine, “to jump”. to stop relying on “old Soviet-era weapons and instead rely on new-generation weapons,” especially if the war is protracted, which she fears.
Running out of parts and ammunition, Ukraine is scouring for supplies across central Europe and further afield in Africa and “wherever old Soviet weapons are still available.” She added: “But we are in competition with Russia, which is also trying to buy up supplies, most likely to block us.”
The Ukrainian lobbying seems to be having an effect. After the NATO meeting on Thursday, Anton Blinken, US Secretary of State, said Washington was considering sending “new systems” to Ukraine. “We will not let anything stand in the way of giving Ukrainians what they need,” he said.
And Ukraine’s foreign minister expressed “cautious optimism” after alliance member countries agreed to supply Ukraine with advanced weapons, including heavy weapons and armaments. Liz Truss, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, told reporters after the meeting: “We have agreed to assist Ukrainian armed forces on a bilateral basis in the transition from their Soviet-era equipment to NATO standard equipment.”
But Klympush-Tsintsadze and other Ukrainian politicians say they are not sure all Western countries “really understand what we are dealing with; what we are dealing with in relation to Russia.”
They exclude Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic States from their allegations. You say that Ukraine is in a struggle for existence. They claim that this war must be brought to a decisive conclusion and not be curtailed by a flawed peace deal, which can only be temporary, leaving Russia in control of part of the territory to the east of the country and capable of holding that of Ukraine to manipulate and subvert future.
There is a false dichotomy between offense and defense – in order to defend, they now have to attack, they say. And they believe Russia’s nuclear threats — as well as threatening Kremlin words about a major war — are behind Western restraint. “They all admit that they didn’t believe we would last and still can’t see that we can win, but we can’t last long and we can’t without more western support,” Klympush-Tsintsadze said.
Ukrainian requests for more offensive weapons come as the Ukrainian military prepares for a major new Russian offensive in the eastern Donbass region, aimed at expanding the area controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014. Throughout the week, Ukrainian military authorities have urged residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as parts of the Kharkiv region, to leave “while they still have a chance”.
The message seems to get through. More and more evacuees from Donetsk and Luhansk are arriving at refugee reception centers in Ukraine, and more appear to be entering Poland. Many evacuees I’ve encountered inside and outside of Ukraine in recent days are from the city of Dnipro and its environs, which borders Donetsk — and many more than I saw last month. The new evacuees say they fear their city could soon come under the storm of Russia’s new eastward push.
Some, like Irina, have made their way to Kraków, Poland, two and a half hours from the border. They seem out of place in a city experiencing a post-pandemic surge in pre-Easter tourism with Europeans and some Americans crowding Old Town enjoying the post-COVID freedom to drink in bars and socialize in restaurants. Some tourists, mostly Americans, head off to visit nearby Auschwitz, a ghost of bygone horrors that Ukrainians say is resurfacing.
Ukrainian evacuees are counting their pennies more. But they also wander the streets and list of parks, trying to adjust to their life-changing circumstances. They keep checking their phones for the latest news on battles and skirmishes back home.
Some sit in the foyers of their hotels and watch life through the plate glass windows, including Kuzma, a nine-year-old boy who likes to practice his English.
He, his mother and his younger cousin have been in Kraków for a week. He looks at a line of Polish school children walking by, led by their teacher. All children wear high-visibility yellow plastic vests with smileys painted on them. “What do you do with yourself during the day?” I ask him
He points to the park across the street, then adds, “But my dog is in Dnipro.”
https://www.politico.eu/article/world-help-ukrainian-plead-more-weapons-west/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication 'Why doesn't the world help?' Ukrainians plead for more weapons from the West - POLITICO