A memorial to Taras Shevchenko is seen near a residential building destroyed by Russian army shelling in Borodyanka, Kyiv region, north-central Ukraine.
Hennady Minchenko | Nurphoto | Getty Images
WASHINGTON –– A Ukrainian delegation warned U.S. officials in Washington this week that security aid packages are not arriving in the beleaguered country fast enough, a plea that comes amid Western security claims that the Kremlin will soon ramp up its military campaign.
Last week, the delegation, made up of representatives from Ukraine’s civil society, military veterans and former government officials, met with 45 lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, officials from the State and Defense Departments and the National Security Council at the White House.
“It’s the 44th day of the war that we should lose on the third day,” began Daria Kaleniuk, head of Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Action Center, a national organization that supports Ukraine’s parliament and prosecutor’s office.
“What we need now is to upgrade our military and our territorial defense units to be able to prevent more graves in the backyards of innocent people,” she said on Friday.
Kaleniuk added that US lawmakers and Biden administration officials have offered a number of justifications for why certain weapons systems cannot be delivered, citing logistical problems, lack of inventory and bureaucratic constraints.
“The six-year-old boy who visits his mother’s grave in his backyard doesn’t want to hear anything from the bureaucracy as an excuse for not supplying arms to Ukraine,” Kaleniuk said.
“This is an extraordinary situation that requires extraordinary measures. Abolish your bureaucracy, abolish it now. The President of the United States has tremendous power, Congress has tremendous power. We know it’s possible,” she added.
In the yard of their home, Vlad Tanyuk, 6, stands near the grave of his mother, Ira Tanyuk, who died on Monday, April 4.
Rodrigo Abd | AP
Earlier in the week, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also appealed to NATO allies to speed up the delivery of their weapons commitments.
“Either you help us now, and I’m talking days, not weeks, or your help will be too late,” Kuleba said on April 7.
“I have no doubt that Ukraine will have the necessary weapons to fight. The question is the schedule. This discussion is not about the list of weapons. The discussion is about the timing of when we get them and that’s crucial,” he said, adding, “People are dying today, the offensive is unfolding today.”
When asked about Kuleba’s comments, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken downplayed concerns that allies were withholding weapons specifically requested by Ukraine.
“They are coming up with new systems that they think would be helpful and effective,” NATO headquarters’ Blinken said.
“We’re bringing in our own expertise, particularly the Pentagon, to determine what we think might actually be effective. What Ukrainians are willing to use as soon as they get it, and what we actually have access to and can bring to them in real time,” he said, adding that the US is working expeditiously to bring appropriate weapons to Ukraine.
Blinken’s comments echo those of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the US Army Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. Austin and Milley told lawmakers last week that some weapon systems on Ukraine’s wish list require months of training to work.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium April 6, 2022.
Evelyn Hockstein AFP | Getty Images
“Our concern is to give Ukraine what it needs, what it wants, period,” said Olena Tregub, Ukraine’s former director of international aid at the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.
“We need attack drones, long-range and medium-range attack capabilities, because while we’re sitting here with you, the Russians are moving huge columns, huge forces into southeastern Ukraine,” Tregub said.
Western intelligence reports recently noted that Russian forces will soon focus their military might on eastern and southern Ukraine after weeks of stalling to reach the capital, Kyiv.
Over the past six weeks, Russian ground forces in Ukraine have faced a series of logistical problems on the battlefield, including reports of fuel and food shortages and frostbite.
“When Russia began this war, its initial goal was to seize the capital, Kyiv, replace the Zelenskyi government, and take control of much if not all of Ukraine,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on April 4. April to reporters at the White House.
Sullivan said US officials believed the Kremlin was now revising its aim in the war.
A senior US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share new details from the Pentagon, said Russian troops who were once near Kyiv are currently being staffed in Belarus.
The official said the Pentagon believes these troops will soon be deployed to fight in Ukraine again. When asked where the troops are likely to go, the official said the Pentagon believes the majority of them will move to the Donbass region, where conflict has been raging since 2014.
A woman walks in front of destroyed buildings in the town of Borodianka, April 6, 2022, where last week’s Russian retreat has left evidence of the struggle being fought to keep a hold of the town, just 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest reserve the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
Genya Savilov | AFP | Getty Images
“We need protection for our skies,” said Maria Berlinska, a Ukrainian military veteran who fought in the Donbass conflict. She asked US lawmakers for “serious weapons” including medium-range surface-to-air missile systems, jets, tanks and armored vehicles during a series of meetings in Washington, DC.
“We’re almost out of ammo. If you don’t have ammunition, there’s nothing you can do,” she said, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war is likely to extend beyond Ukraine’s borders.
“It’s very naive to think that if Putin takes Ukraine, he will stop,” added Berlinska, who trains Ukrainian military volunteers in aerial reconnaissance.
“If we don’t win this war, it will be fought on NATO territory because Putin won’t stop. He has bigger plans and must be stopped in Ukraine,” she warned.
Ukrainian soldiers walk next to destroyed Russian tanks and armored vehicles amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Bucha, Kyiv region, Ukraine, April 6, 2022.
Alkis Konstantinidis | Reuters
Since invading Moscow on February 24, the Biden administration has deployed more than 100,000 US troops to NATO member nations and approved $1.7 billion in security aid.
In addition, the NATO alliance has put more than 140 warships and 130 aircraft on increased alert. Meanwhile, NATO has consistently warned Putin that an attack on one NATO member state is considered an attack on all, triggering the group’s cornerstone Article 5.
Ukraine, which has sought NATO membership since 2002, shares borders with four NATO allies: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Poland currently hosts the majority of the 30-strong alliance’s troops and has so far taken in the lion’s share of refugees fleeing Putin’s war.
“I think we proved to the world that we will not surrender because we know that if we surrender there will be concentration camps. Putin doesn’t even hide what he’s going to do with Ukrainians,” the center’s Kaleniuk said.
“It’s genocide, the wiping out of an entire nation, and I’m not exaggerating,” she added.
The United Nations has confirmed 1,793 civilian deaths and 2,439 wounded in Ukraine since Russia invaded its former Soviet neighbor on February 24.