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Zelenskyy pushes for speedy support to avoid more deaths

- By Karl Ritter

MUNICH — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Western allies Friday to quicken their military support for Ukraine, warning at a major internatio­nal security conference that delays would play into Russia’s hand as the invasion approaches its first anniversar­y.

“There is no alternativ­e to speed, because it’s speed that life depends on,” Zelenskyy told the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

About 40 heads of state and government, as well as politician­s and security experts from almost 100 countries, are due to attend the three-day gathering amid fears that the fighting in Ukraine could invite a new Cold War.

As part of Western nations’ effort to meet Zelenskyy’s push for advanced weapons, the Pentagon said Friday that the first class of 635 Ukrainian fighters has finished a five-week advanced U.S. training course in Germany on sophistica­ted combat skills and armored vehicles that will be critical in the coming spring offensive against the Russians.

Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said that additional training is already underway at the Grafenwoeh­r training area, and will involve about 1,600 more Ukrainian troops.

The first group of Ukrainian forces arrived at the base Jan. 15 and was put through an intense course that prepared them to take Bradley fighting vehicles and M109 Paladins into battle. The Bradleys and Paladins are two of the many armored vehicles and tanks that the U.S. and allies have pledged to the Ukrainians to help them punch through entrenched Russian troop lines.

Zelenskyy vowed that his country would ultimately prevail over Moscow’s aggression — and even predicted that victory would happen this year. But he warned that Russia “can still destroy many lives.”

“That is why we need to hurry up,” Zelenskyy said. “We need the speed.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has been one of Ukraine’s main backers, renewed pledges to help but also insisted that Kyiv’s allies must not be hasty.

“For all the pressure to act that there doubtless is, in this decisive question, care must come before rushing, cohesion before solo performanc­es,” said Scholz, who has hesitated before taking new steps to help Ukraine.

Berlin agreed last month to deliver German-made Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine and to grant other countries permission to do the same. German officials, who faced heavy pressure to send the Leopards, have since indicated that they are disappoint­ed other countries have not offered more armor.

Scholz urged “all who can deliver such battle tanks” to do so. He said Germany will do what it can “to make this decision easier for our partners,” for instance by training Ukrainian soldiers or helping with logistics.

The need to supply Ukraine with billions of dollars’ worth of military aid has sometimes strained allied countries. After receiving Western pledges of tanks and more ammunition, Kyiv is now hoping for fighter jets, but some countries have balked at sending them.

For the first time in two decades, conference organizers did not invite Russian officials to Munich. It was the latest snub as Western countries seek to isolate Russia diplomatic­ally over the invasion that began last year on Feb. 24.

Vice President Kamala Harris was scheduled to address the conference Saturday. She will lay out what’s at stake in the war, and why it matters, to bolster the case for maintainin­g U.S. support for Ukraine for as long as necessary, the White House said.

“We will make sure that we do everything possible within our power to strengthen Ukraine’s position on the battlefiel­d. So that if and when there are negotiatio­ns, Ukraine will be in the strongest position in a negotiatio­n,” Harris told MSNBC on Friday.

 ?? VADIM GHIRDA/AP ?? Tetiana Kurkh feeds cats left behind by their owners Friday in the Saltvika neighborho­od of Kharkiv, Ukraine. The city has been badly damaged by Russian shelling.
VADIM GHIRDA/AP Tetiana Kurkh feeds cats left behind by their owners Friday in the Saltvika neighborho­od of Kharkiv, Ukraine. The city has been badly damaged by Russian shelling.

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