Ukraine appeals to Nato: ‘Weapons, weapons, weapons’

Alliance ‘ready to do more’ but wary of being drawn into direct confrontation with Russia

Ukraine has appealed to Nato to give it weapons to fight a Russian invasion, while pushing the West to impose more punishing sanctions against Moscow, warning that action is needed fast to prevent more civilians being killed.

Kyiv’s foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba was blunt as he arrived in Brussels for a meeting with his Nato counterparts.

“My agenda is very simple. It only has three items on it. It’s weapons, weapons, and weapons,” he told journalists. “I think the deal that Ukraine is offering is fair. You give us weapons, we sacrifice our lives and the war is contained in Ukraine. This is it.”

Specifically, Mr Kuleba said he was seeking aircraft, “shore to vessel missiles”, armoured vehicles, and heavy air defence systems.


Momentum for a toughened Western response has grown in response to evidence of apparent atrocities against civilians in Russian-held areas of Ukraine, and hardened a package of proposed new European Union sanctions expected to be approved this week.

They are set to ban Russian coal imports and freeze the assets of the daughters of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Mr Kuleba welcomed the toughened package but said it should be extended further to a "full oil and gas embargo" and other measures.

"Frankly speaking, I hope we will never face a situation again when to step up the sanctions pressure we need atrocities like Bucha to be revealed, and to impress and to shock other partners to the extent that they sit down and say: okay, fine, we will introduce new sanctions," he said.

The appeal for weapons comes as Ukraine and Nato warn that their intelligence suggests Russia is regrouping its forces in the country's east, and will soon launch a major new offensive to try to create a land bridge between areas under its control.

Direct confrontation

Steps to send weapons to Ukraine have been tempered by concerns about escalating the conflict and the risk of drawing Nato towards a direct confrontation with Russia.

While many EU member states have sent military aid, mooted plans to provide aircraft have proved complex, and many countries have adopted a policy that they can send “defensive” but not “offensive” weapons.

There were signs of a potential hardening in the Nato stance as its secretary general Jens Stoltenberg backed Ukraine’s rejection of this concept.

“This distinction between offensive and defensive weapons doesn’t actually have any real meaning in defensive war, as Ukraine is fighting,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

The Nato allies were “ready to do more to provide more equipment”, he told journalists, declining to reveal details publicly.

“Nato allies provide support to Ukraine. At the same time, Nato’s main responsibility is to protect and defend all allies, and to prevent this conflict from escalating to a full-fledged war between Nato and Russia,” he said.

The war has spurred several EU members to increase defence spending and re-evaluate their security stances, and prompted the EU to agree an unprecedented €1 billion joint fund to pay for military aid for Ukraine, which Ireland has opted out of.

However, the scale of the fund was played down by the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell in a speech in the European Parliament.

“That may sound like a lot, but €1 billion is what we pay Putin every day for the energy he supplies to us. Since the war began we have given them €35 billion, compare that with the €1 billion we have given to arm the Ukrainians,” Mr Borrell said.

A large majority of the European Parliament backed a call on Thursday for the EU to immediately bar Russian oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas imports, harden financial sanctions, and increase deliveries of weapons to Ukraine, in a resolution backed by almost all Irish MEPs.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times