Kyiv, Sep 28 (EFE).- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, during a surprise visit to Kyiv, said Thursday that Ukrainian forces were “gradually gaining ground” in their counteroffensive against the Russian forces.
“Today, Ukraine’s forces are advancing. They are facing fierce battles, but they are gradually gaining ground. Every meter that Ukrainian forces reclaim represents a loss for Russia,” Stoltenberg said during a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
He insisted that Ukrainians were fighting for their families, future and freedom, while Moscow was pursuing “imperial delusions.”
“Russia could lay down arms and end its war today; Ukraine does not have that option,” he said.
“Ukraine’s surrender would not mean peace, it would mean brutal Russian occupation. Peace at any price would be no peace at all. Ukraine needs a just and sustainable peace,” he noted.
Regarding Ukraine’s NATO aspirations, Stoltenberg said that NATO member states have taken several measures to expedite Ukraine’s path toward its membership. “Ukraine is now closer to NATO than ever before.”
“Ukraine’s future is in NATO. As we work together to prepare you for that future, NATO will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes” he affirmed.
He said that NATO allies, in a “collective effort,” have committed almost 100 billion euros in the form of military support to Ukraine since previous year, with nearly half of it originating from NATO’s European allies and Canada.
He underlined that the NATO allies would continue to provide Ukrainian forces with advanced military capabilities, including modern tanks, sophisticated missile systems and air defenses.
“The stronger Ukraine becomes, the closer we come to ending Russia’s aggression,” he said.
Stoltenberg welcomed Ukraine’s plans to jointly produce weapons systems, including air defenses with the United States, and said he looked forward to further encouraging news from the upcoming International Defense Industry Forum in Kyiv, which will include NATO and more than 20 countries.
Stoltenberg also announced that the NATO Alliance had initiated framework contracts with arms companies worth 2.4 billion euros to add “hundreds of thousands” of key ammunition pieces to its stockpile, particularly 155mm artillery, anti-tank guided missiles, and tank ammunition.
During the same press conference, President Zelenskyy said Russia continued to strike Ukraine’s key infrastructure, such as energy sources, agriculture facilities, and trade ports.
“Just last night, Russian terrorists deployed more than 40 Shahed drones,” Zelensky said, referring to the Iranian drones that Russia daily launches at Ukrainian territory to target ports, agricultural and energy infrastructure, and defensive ammunition.
The Ukrainian president warned that these attacks, mainly aimed at disrupting Ukraine’s agricultural sector’s export capacity since mid-July, would impact global food market prices and availability.
Zelenskyy called on NATO to help Ukraine in strengthening its air defense capabilities to withstand the intensity of Russia airstrikes, particularly during the upcoming winter.
“We need to get through this winter together to safeguard our energy infrastructure and people’s lives,” he urged. EFE