Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has described the growing production of drones and ammunition in his own country as a path to freedom.
“Domestic production of drones, artillery shells and military vehicles is literally the production of our freedom, the freedom of Ukrainians and Ukraine,” the 46-year-old said in his video message. This also involves the important production of longer-range drones. Zelensky did not give any details.
“Under conditions of large-scale war, violence is the only basis for freedom,” Zelensky said. He had repeatedly stated that Russia, which started the war on February 24, 2022, must be defeated on the battlefield. In Zelensky's view, this is the only way to permanently stop Russian aggression. He once again described the situation at the front as difficult.
The Ukrainian head of state once again reiterated in his video message that NATO membership is an “unchangeable priority” for the country. Zelensky received former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Kiev. Rasmussen thanked Zelensky for keeping the issue of Ukraine on the international agenda. Ukraine is fighting not just for its freedom, but for everyone's freedom, said Rasmussen.
Zelensky reported that the Dane presented plans for a new international task force for Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration. He didn't give any details. As a full NATO member, the country, which has experience in the fight against Russia, will significantly improve the potential of the military alliance, he said.
Russia cites Ukraine's desire to join NATO as a reason for its war of aggression. According to official information, the power apparatus in Moscow sees its security threatened if the neighboring country joins the Western military alliance. Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated that he wants to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO at all costs. The country's inclusion in the alliance is not yet foreseeable.
Injured after Russian drone and missile attacks
According to official information, at least four people in Ukraine were injured in nightly Russian attacks with drones and missiles. The military governor of the southern Ukrainian region of Mykolaiv, Vitaliy Klim, said on his Telegram channel that a fire broke out in a storage room and a shop as a result of drone fire in the Snihurivka district and a man was seriously injured. According to military governor Oleh Synjehubov, three people were slightly injured in the northeastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv.
In total, Russia fired on the country during the night with 20 drones and three Iskander-type ballistic missiles, the Ukrainian Air Force said. 14 drones were shot down over the Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Kirovohrad, Mykolaiv and Zaporizhia regions.
Power struggle between Zelensky and his army chief
Meanwhile, according to consistent media reports, Zelensky is said to have tried to fire Commander-in-Chief Valeriy Zalushny. Due to pressure from the USA and Great Britain as well as high-ranking military officials, Zelensky had to reverse this decision, the Times reported on Tuesday evening. The Guardian reported, citing opposition MPs, that the president asked Saluzhny to resign on Monday, but he refused. The New York Times also reported on Zelensky's plan to fire Saluzhny.
For weeks, relations between Zelensky and Saluzhny have been strained in view of the failed counteroffensive against the Russian attackers. The 50-year-old Salushnyj became commander in chief of the army a few months before the Russian invasion in February 2022. Under his command, Ukrainian troops withstood the invasion and even recaptured occupied territories. The general is considered popular among his soldiers and the population. That's why he was said to have political ambitions, which he denied.
On Monday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry had already contradicted reports about the dismissal of Commander-in-Chief Saluzhny. “Dear journalists, we answer everyone at the same time: That’s not true,” the ministry said on Telegram.
Brussels: Talks about further aid
In Brussels today, EU defense ministers continued discussions on how to proceed with support for Ukraine at an informal meeting. It is also about an exchange of views on the EU's defense preparedness and projects to strengthen the defense industry. The German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius is represented by State Secretary Siemtje Möller.
An informal dinner before the special EU summit on Thursday will also focus on further financial aid for Ukraine. EU Council President Charles Michel has invited Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and numerous other heads of state and government.
Orban is insisting on concessions before a special summit on EU-Ukraine aid
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reiterated his rejection of the current plans shortly at the EU special summit on billions in financial aid for Ukraine. He set conditions for an agreement. Hungary is ready to be part of a solution, he told the French magazine Le Point. However, the prerequisite is that you decide every year whether you want to continue sending money or not.
Orban rejected allegations that he wanted to blackmail the other EU states with a veto. In his opinion, committing 50 billion euros to Ukraine now for the period until the end of 2027 could give citizens the impression that their vote doesn't matter, he said with a view to the European elections coming up in June.
A decision on new EU financial aid for Ukraine should actually have been made at the EU summit in December. However, a consensus was needed there; and Orban prevented the decision with a veto. He had previously questioned the usefulness of the plans several times and in this context also pointed out that, in his view, the EU had wrongly frozen funds from the Community budget intended for his country.
It is unclear whether a compromise can be found at the summit on Thursday. According to EU diplomats, EU states such as Germany and Poland have recently clearly ruled out granting Orban an annual right to review aid to Ukraine. If no solution is found with Hungary at the dinner announced by Michel, the other EU states want to act in a circle of 26 - i.e. without Hungary.