Pavel Golovkin Associated Press A Russian Sukhoi Su-35S fighter jet, parked in Zhukovsky, near Moscow, August 27, 2019.
France Media Agency in Davos
Ukraine said on Wednesday that it was aiming for control of the air currently dominated by Russia by 2024, warning that defeating Moscow would take “time” and would require continued help from the West.
This call comes while Americans and Europeans are procrastinating over the next step in providing aid to kyiv. Ukraine fears that these hesitations could lead to a freezing of the conflict, favorable to Russia, which occupies nearly 20% of its territory.
“In 2024, the priority is to remove Russia from the sky because whoever controls the sky will determine when and how the war ends,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba told the Davos Economic Forum.
“We defeated them in 2022 on land, we defeated them in 2023 at sea and we are focused on defeating them in the air in 2024,” he said.
Russia attacked Ukraine in February 2022, but failed to take kyiv and then was driven out of the north, northeast and part of the south of the country. In 2023, with maritime drone and missile attacks, Ukrainian forces were able to lift the blockade of some of its Black Sea ports and partially resume exports, particularly of grain.
- Ukrainian state risks 'irreparable blow' if war drags on, Putin says
- Russia wants to exhaust Ukraine with its massive strikes
- 'Pauses' in conflict would help Russia, Zelensky argues
Possible “deficit” of weapons
To gain mastery of the air, Mr. Kouleba repeated that his country was going to need the West to provide it with planes (F-16s are to be delivered this year) as well as long-range missiles. range, projectiles that the Americans and Europeans only provided in small numbers, particularly for fear of provoking an escalation of the conflict with Russia.
“This will require providing Ukraine with planes […] long-range missiles and drones, of which Ukraine has significantly increased its production,” demanded Mr. Kouleba.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, also in Davos, insisted on Wednesday that any delay in aid to his country endangers “the security of the European continent”.
Without aid, “we will be seriously lacking in artillery, we will have a very large deficit in anti-aircraft defense missiles. This means that we will not be able to repel attacks,” he continued, raising the specter of a future “war between NATO and Russia.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed doubts about the prospects for a ceasefire in Ukraine, saying that Moscow had shown no desire to “negotiate in good faith”, after almost two years of Russian invasion.
Ukraine is targeted almost every night by attack drones and missiles launched by Russia from the ground, sea or air.
The Ukrainian air force said it had shot down 19 of the 20 drones launched by the Russians during the night, notably against Odessa, a large southern port also targeted by a missile attack in the morning, where three people were injured.
“An enemy that never sleeps”
Elsewhere in Ukraine, one person was killed and another injured in Kherson and two teenagers injured in Nikopol.
By Tuesday evening, Ukrainian authorities had already reported 17 injured in Kharkiv, the country's second city, after a double missile attack.
Thanks to defense systems provided by the West, Ukrainian forces manage to shoot down the majority of missiles fired by Russia, but the country risks running out of ammunition.
“We are fighting a very powerful enemy, a very great enemy, an enemy that never sleeps. It takes time,” noted Mr. Kouleba.
The Westerners have also delivered only a very limited number of long-range weapons that kyiv considers crucial to winning. French President Emmanuel Macron promised 40 more on Tuesday.
Mr. Putin judged on Tuesday that the very existence of the Ukrainian state was at stake, following the failure of Kiev's vast summer counter-offensive which did not allow the liberation of the occupied territories. by the Russian army.
“Not only has their counter-offensive failed, but the initiative is entirely in the hands of the Russian armed forces. If this continues, Ukraine's statehood could suffer an irreparable blow,” said one who believes NATO is waging a proxy war against Moscow using Ukraine.
Mr. Zelensky, on Tuesday in Davos, described the Russian president as a “predator”.