Zelensky: Ukraine intercepted 70% of Russian attacks
Ukrainian soldiers sit on ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns in the capital Kiev in March 2022. Photo: AFP

Ukraine’s President said the country shot down 70% of missiles and UAVs in recent Russian raids, but Kyiv needs more air defense systems.

“In recent days, Russia launched a total of 500 devices targeting Ukrainian territory. We destroyed 70% of them,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said at a joint press conference with his Lithuanian counterpart Gitanas Nauseda in Vilnius on January 10, during his visit to this country.

According to Mr. Zelensky, Ukraine has suffered many casualties after Russian raids and needs to be transferred more air defense systems to cope with upcoming attacks. “The air defense complex is what we need the most,” the Ukrainian President emphasized.

Russia has recently increased large-scale attacks on Ukrainian territory with missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the largest being two attacks on December 29 last year and on January 2, killing dozens of people. Moscow claimed only to target military targets, but Kyiv accused the enemy’s raid of destroying civilian structures such as schools and kindergartens.

Mr. Zelensky also warned that the conflict would not only stop in Ukraine but could spread to other countries in the region if Kyiv is not supported to fight Russia. “Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Moldova will probably be next,” he said.

President Nauseda pledged to support Ukraine until the country “wins.” He said Lithuania would transfer many M577 armored personnel carriers and ammunition to Kyiv next month, part of the aid package worth 200 million euros per year that the country announced previously.

Lithuania is the first stop on President Zelensky’s New Year’s overseas trip, aimed at calling for more aid for Kyiv. After leaving Lithuania, Mr. Zelensky plans to continue visiting two other Baltic countries, Latvia and Estonia, but the specific time has not been announced.

In terms of GDP proportion, Lithuania is the country providing the largest financial support to Ukraine in 2023, with a rate of 1.4%. Latvia and Estonia ranked second and fifth, at 1.3% and 1.1% respectively.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas announced on January 10 that the country is ready to support Ukraine “as long as Kyiv needs it.” Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna said Tallinn will allocate 0.25% of GDP to provide military aid to Ukraine in the next four years. “Supporting Ukraine right now is much cheaper than the price the international community will have to pay if Russia achieves its goals in the conflict,” Mr. Tsahkna said.

Last week, Latvian Defense Minister Andris Spruds pledged that the country would continue to provide equipment and train Ukrainian soldiers in 2024. According to the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense, Riga trained about 3,000 soldiers for Kyiv last year.

Last December, the aid monitoring agency for Ukraine at the Kiel Institute in Germany published research showing that new military, financial, and humanitarian aid commitments to Ukraine in August-October 2023 reached nearly 2.3 billion. USD, down 87% over the same period in 2022. This is the lowest level since Russia started the war in Ukraine at the end of February 2022, showing that “Western aid motivation for Kyiv is decreasing.”, the report commented.

The European Union (EU) is currently unable to approve a new aid package worth 50 billion euros for Ukraine due to Hungary’s veto, while the US Congress has not approved a 61 billion USD aid package for Kyiv because of the Communist Party’s veto. 

NATO said on January 10 that member countries plan to continue providing billions of euros in aid to Ukraine in 2024 to help Kyiv improve its air defense capacity but have not announced a specific plan.