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25 Feb, 2024 22:52

Half of Western arms arrive late – Ukrainian defense chief

Rustem Umerov has complained that delayed weapons deliveries are to blame for battlefield losses
Half of Western arms arrive late – Ukrainian defense chief

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov has said that continuing delays in weapons deliveries from Kiev’s Western backers are playing a major role in the loss of troops and ground. 

“At the moment, commitment doesn’t constitute delivery,” Umerov said on Sunday at a forum in Kiev. “50% of commitments are not delivered on time.” He added, “Basically, whatever committed that doesn’t come on time, we’ll lose people, we’ll lose territories.”

Umerov made the comments as Ukraine’s conflict with Russia dragged into its third year amid ammunition shortages and struggles to have a new $60 billion aid package approved by US lawmakers.

Kiev has suffered battlefield setbacks in recent days, including last week’s fall of Avdeevka, a key Donbass stronghold, to Russian forces. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky reacted to the defeat by warning that “artificial deficits of weapons” allow Moscow to gain the upper hand.

While Western countries have committed over $230 billion in aid to Ukraine since February 2022, Umerov claimed that Russia’s government is devoting over $150 billion annually to the conflict. He added that Ukraine is defending itself without air superiority against a larger foe, making timely weapons shipments all the more crucial.

“Allies are supposed to deliver aid on time during this war,” Umerov said. “We have a plan. We’re working to execute the plan. We’re doing everything possible – and impossible – but we struggle without timely supplies.”

Speaking at the same forum on Sunday, Zelensky released an estimate of Ukrainian casualties for the first time since the conflict began, saying 31,000 troops had been killed. The figure is a small fraction of Russian and third-party estimates for Kiev’s battlefield deaths. The Russian Defense Ministry said last month that Ukraine had lost about 400,000 troops, including 215,000 in 2023 alone. US officials told the New York Times that as of last August, about 70,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed.

Ukrainian General Aleksandr Syrsky, who was promoted to commander-in-chief after his predecessor was fired earlier this month, acknowledged that Kiev’s forces face “very difficult and tense” conditions on the front lines. Umerov also replaced a sacked predecessor when he was named defense minister last September.