Ukraine says its priority for 2024 is to take control of the skies.
Russian soldiers fired Msta-B howitzers in Ukraine in November 2023. Photo: RIA Novosti

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday that his country’s priority for 2024 is to gain control of its skies as Russia’s large-scale assault enters its third year.

His comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos came just hours after Russian drone and missile strikes injured 20 people in Ukraine overnight.

The drone bombing left huge craters in the southern city of Odessa, where AFP journalists saw charred residential buildings after the assault.

“In 2024, of course, the priority is to kick Russia out of the skies,” Kuleba said in a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos. “Because whoever controls the skies will define when and how the war will end.”

Kyiv has long asked the West to deliver advanced fighter jets to support its troops entrenched in the south and east of the country.

President Emmanuel Macron said this week that France would deliver a new batch of about 40 SCALP long-range cruise missiles, as well as hundreds of bombs, as Kyiv fights the Russian invasion.

But even that promise is limited compared to the range of munitions Russian forces have recently been dropping on Ukraine.

Authorities in Kyiv have seen a sharp rise in civilian casualties since December as Moscow intensifies airstrikes, reversing a downward trend seen in early 2023, the United Nations has warned.

On Wednesday, Kyiv declared that Russia had launched 20 Iranian-designed attack drones against targets in southern Ukraine overnight but that its air defense systems had destroyed all but one.

The conflict has stalled after last year’s long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive failed to breach Russian positions.

Kuleba called for patience from Ukraine’s key Western supporters, insisting that with the right support, Ukraine could emerge victorious.

“We are fighting a powerful enemy, a very big enemy that does not sleep,” Kuleba said. “It takes time.

“We defeat them on land in 2022. We defeat them at sea in 2023, and we are completely focused on defeating them in the air in 2024,” he declared in a panel discussion at the forum in Switzerland.

His comments echo President Volodymyr Zelensky’s comments on Tuesday that Ukraine “must gain air superiority” to enable “progress on the ground.”

Several NATO countries currently train Ukrainian pilots on American-made F-16 fighters. Earlier this month, Denmark declared that it would transfer 19 F-16s in the second quarter of this year.

Washington had previously resisted allowing fighter jet transfers for fear of being viewed by Moscow as a direct belligerent in the Ukraine war.

Meanwhile, Moscow announced Wednesday that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would travel to New York next week to attend a United Nations Security Council meeting.

Asked whether Lavrov would attend the January 23 Security Council debate on the Middle East in person, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said “yes,” TASS reported on Wednesday.

AFP News