Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is visiting Lithuania, says that Ukraine and Lithuania have been unlucky to have an inadequate neighbour who brings only misery and slavery but that Russia will not be allowed to reoccupy and enslave these nations. According to Mr Zelensky, Ukraine is currently in dire need of air defence systems. Still, the President said he felt no pressure from Western countries to negotiate with Russia, Eglė Samoškaitė states on TV3.lt
“This is not just a visit of gratitude; it is a visit of shared trust between the nations that live in the neighbourhood of Russia,” Mr Zelensky told a press conference.
“We have all had the misfortune of having such a neighbour, an inadequate neighbour who brings only misfortune and slavery, but we will never again be held hostage by geography, and we will not allow Russia to destroy our statehood or yours,” the Ukrainian President added.
“Now we must wrest peace from Russia. The kind of peace we want. A fair one. And get security for our peoples”, said Mr Zelensky at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius.
According to the Head of State of Ukraine, 2024 will be crucial for Lithuania, Ukraine, and all partners. After Lithuania, Mr Zelensky will visit Latvia and Estonia.
They discussed cooperation in the defence industry
On Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda signed a joint statement on cooperation in the defence industry, and the Lithuanian Defense and Security Industry Association signed a memorandum with the Ministry of Strategic Industry of Ukraine and the State Enterprise of the Ukrainian Defense Industry.
In essence, such agreements encourage cooperation between the Lithuanian and Ukrainian defence industries, as the West is stagnating in supplying arms to Ukraine. Currently, the Ukrainians are particularly short of air defence systems and artillery.
The Presidents agreed to continue cooperating to ensure predictable, long-term, timely delivery of military and financial support to Ukraine, using specific and existing European programmes.
Lithuania’s total support to Ukraine exceeds €1 billion and represents 1.45% of Lithuania’s gross domestic product.
Lithuania intends to continue to provide military assistance to Ukraine in response to its immediate and long-term needs, including through the Lithuanian-led Ukrainian Demining Coalition, the supply of arms and equipment, training and defence cooperation, including the establishment of joint ventures, the localisation of production in Ukraine, and the promotion of the exchange of information on relevant defence-related research and development activities.
According to the Presidential announcement, both sides will step up their efforts to encourage other allies and international partners to provide the same level of support to Ukraine. Particular attention will continue to provide Ukraine with modern air defence systems, uncrewed aerial vehicles, electronic warfare, and long-range artillery and ammunition.
“We are talking about an arms deficit. I want to start with a positive signal. Our companies and ministers will only sign more bilateral agreements like the one we signed today with the Republic of Lithuania. We are all aware that there is a shortage of weapons in the world, not only for us but for the rest of the world, with empty warehouses and many challenges for world defence. That is why we are interested in joint production. We have started this work with partners in the US and with many companies. We are continuing this work with European partners and will continue to do so permanently without waiting for the entire deficit to disappear by itself. That will not happen; we should not expect it. As for what we and our partners cannot produce shortly, it is modern air defence systems, which are in very short supply. I think you know very well that Russia, in the last days of December, in the ‘festive days’, and also in the first days of January, severely destroyed many civil infrastructure structures, including schools, kindergartens, electricity substations,” said Mr Zelensky.
According to Mr Zelensky, Ukraine repels about 70% of such attacks. This is why air defence systems are what Ukraine needs most, but Ukraine’s drone production is increasing, which also helps protect civilians.
No pressure to freeze the conflict
The Ukrainian President also responded to a question about possible pressure from the West to negotiate with Russia, which has attacked his country, by saying that he felt no pressure to freeze the conflict. The Western countries have not publicly expressed any such wish in any form. However, non-public discussions about possible negotiations are still appearing in the international media, and the financial and military aid packages from the US and the European Union are stagnating, so this could also be seen as an informal means of putting pressure on Ukraine.
“There is no pressure from partners. As far as stopping our defence, military action, and fighting, there is no pressure to freeze the conflict in this respect. So far, there is none. There are different voices, the media; I’ve heard it all, I’ve read it all, and I know it all. There are different voices and angles of discussion, but we know the partners are not yet ready to give us such signals. At least I have not heard such signals”, said Mr Zelensky.
But he suggested that Russia does not intend to stop without occupying Ukraine and that the West’s hesitation or slowness only adds to Russia’s strength and courage. According to Mr Zelensky, everybody knows who is at risk after Ukraine and who could be attacked by Russia if Ukraine does not stand up.
“Putin will not finish all this if we do not finish him”, said Mr Zelensky.
Lithuania to send M577 armoured personnel carriers to Ukraine
President Nausėda announced that Lithuania will send M577 armoured personnel carriers to Ukraine in January.
“At the National Defence Council, we approved a EUR 200 million package of long-term military assistance to Ukraine. We will send ammunition, generators, detonation systems to Ukraine again in January and M577 armoured personnel carriers in February, and we will train Ukrainian soldiers,” the Head of State said on Wednesday at a joint press conference with Ukrainian President V. Zelensky in Vilnius.
On Wednesday, the President of Lithuania met with the visiting President of Ukraine, V. Zelensky. The Lithuanian and Ukrainian leaders discussed the course of the war in Ukraine, the security and defence situation in the region, and military assistance to Ukraine.
At the meeting, the Head of State underlined Lithuania’s readiness to continue to support Ukraine by all means – military, economic and political. The President stressed that in 2024, it will be necessary to speak even louder and more about Ukraine in the international arena. According to the President, war fatigue must not be allowed, and the intensity of international support to Ukraine must not decrease.
“We believe that Ukraine will win this war, and we will support you until victory. There has never been and will never be any other option for us. We are actively mobilising our allies to provide all necessary support to Ukraine, especially military support. We strongly support Ukraine’s EU and NATO membership aspirations and stand ready to help Ukraine on the path of transatlantic integration,” said the Lithuanian leader.
The President stressed that Lithuania does not support calls for peace between Russia and Ukraine under any conditions. According to the Head of State, this would be a victory for the Kremlin and an incentive to launch military aggression against other states in the future. The Head of State stressed that peace talks should be conducted on the terms of a defending Ukraine, not on the aggressor’s terms, and expressed support for the Ukrainian peace formula proposed by President Zelensky. The Lithuanian and Ukrainian leaders also discussed the need to continue the sanctions policy and to seek to isolate the aggressor in the international community.
The meeting focused on cooperation between the two countries’ defence industries and joint production projects. “Lithuania is ready to intensify its military assistance to Ukraine,” the President said. The Lithuanian leader urged companies to produce more and faster products that can be exported to Ukraine, especially in the field of air defence.
The Head of State also underlined Lithuania’s support for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Ukraine, focusing on rebuilding schools, kindergartens and energy infrastructure.
After the bilateral meeting, the Presidents of Lithuania and Ukraine signed a joint statement, “Together to Victory! Разом до перемоги! Together until the victory!” underlining the strategic ties between Lithuania and Ukraine, the shared values and the unwavering determination to defend Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within the borders of its internationally recognised 1991 borders.