Blinken meets Ukraine FM Kuleba in show of support

AFP , Saturday 5 Mar 2022

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on the Poland-Ukraine border Saturday in a show of solidarity on day 10 of Russia's invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.

Blinken   Kuleba
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speak to the media after meeting at the Ukrainian-Polish border crossing in Korczowa, Poland, Saturday, March 5, 2022. AP

The two spoke for 45 minutes under high security at a border crossing full of refugees fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, discussing more arms for Kyiv's military and how to keep up global pressure on Moscow.

"I hope the people of Ukraine will be able to see this as a clear manifestation that we have friends who literally stand by us," Kuleba said after they met at the Korczowa-Krakovets border crossing under high security.

Ukraine is "going to prevail", Blinken said.

Kuleba said he had urged his US counterpart to boost the supply of arms to his country, especially fighter jets and heavy air-defence systems to combat the Russian air force.

"We are satisfied with the already arranged supplies of anti-tank weapons and ammunition," Kuleba told a small groups of journalists at the border.

"It's no secret that the highest demand that we have is in fighter jets, attack aircraft, and air-defence systems," he said.

"We need... big air-defence systems to ensure the safety of our skies. If we lose the skies, there will be much more blood on the ground," Kuleba said.

He also criticized NATO's rejection of implementing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, an idea aimed at denying Russian aircraft free movement to conduct attacks and transport troops.

NATO said Friday that the idea would bring the alliance into direct conflict with Russia and risked expanding the war.

"I think it's a sign of weakness," Kuleba said as he and Blinken stood together on the border.

"It's the people of Ukraine who will pay the price for the reluctance of NATO to act," he added.

The top Ukraine diplomat expressed gratitude for global coordination in placing hefty sanctions on Russia in support of Ukraine.

But he expressed concern that countries would grow weary of implementing those sanctions, especially as they also have an economic impact on the countries enforcing them.

"Ukraine will win this war anyway, because this is the people's war for their land... The question is the price," Kuleba said.

"If our partners continue to take bold systemic decisions to step up economic and political pressure... if they continue to provide us with necessary weapons, the price will be lower," he said.

However, he said: "If anyone in the world one day starts feeling sanctions fatigue, for example, then more people in Ukraine will be dying, suffering."

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