Ukraine’s soon-to-be-replaced defence minister expressed confidence on Sunday that Western allies would agree to the country’s latest weapons request, specifically warplanes to fight off Russian forces that invaded nearly a year ago.
Oleksiy Reznikov told a news conference in Kyiv that Ukraine has already received everything from its “wish list to Santa,” except planes.
“There will be planes, too,” Reznikov predicted. “The question is just what kind exactly… Consider that this mission is already completed.”
So far, Ukraine has won support from Baltic nations and Poland in its quest to obtain Western fighter jets. But several Western leaders have expressed concern that providing warplanes could provoke the Kremlin and draw their countries deeper into the conflict, which has cost tens of thousands of lives and wreaked massive destruction.
Kyiv says such jets are essential to challenging Russia’s air superiority and ensuring success in a Russian offensive that Reznikov predicted could begin around the war’s one-year anniversary on February 24.
“Not all Western weapons will arrive by then, but we have the resources and reserves to help stabilise and sustain the offensive,” Reznikov told reporters.
Since the war began, Western leaders have baulked at some of Ukraine’s requests, such as for longer-range missiles and tanks, only to agree later.
Ukraine has relocated its warplanes and concealed air defence assets, hampering Moscow’s efforts to gain complete control of the skies. After suffering early losses, the Russian air force has avoided venturing deep into Ukraine’s airspace and mainly focused on close front-line support.
German-made tanks are on the way to Ukraine. Reznikov said his forces would begin training on Leopard tanks in Europe on Monday, before their delivery to Ukraine. So far, Canada, Poland, Germany, Great Britain and the United States have announced they will supply tanks to Ukraine.
Kyiv has since announced that it will replace Reznikov with military intelligence expert, Kyrylo Budanov, who is a close ally of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Senior lawmaker David Arakhamia announced the change on his social media channels and added that the position should be headed by a career defence or security official, not a politician.