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Zelensky pleads for help to plug ‘artificial’ weapons deficit amid signs of Russia seizing advantage

<i>Johannes Simon/Getty Images</i><br/>President of Ukraine
Johannes Simon/Getty Images
President of Ukraine

By Maria Kostenko and Manveena Suri, CNN

(CNN) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pressed partner nations for more military assistance to Ukraine at the Munich Security Conference in Germany Saturday, amid signs of the war turning in Russia’s favour.

His plea came soon after Ukrainian forces announced their withdrawal from the key eastern town of Avdiivka.

A $60 billion US military aid package has been held up in Congress since December, with the passage of a supplemental funding bill blocked by Senate Republicans earlier this month. Europe is also struggling to send what it had pledged.

“Unfortunately keeping Ukraine in the artificial deficit of weapons, particularly in deficit of artillery and long-range capabilities, allows Putin to adapt to the current intensity of the war,” Zelensky said, adding the “self-weakening of democracy over time undermines our joint results.”

“If we have enough air defense systems, we can bring millions of Ukrainians home,” he said.

Zelensky said the situation in Avdiivka proved “exactly” that Ukraine’s actions are “limited only by the sufficiency and lengths of the range of our strength.”

“We expect what was promised, what we agreed on, that we will be able to unblock the sky, where the Russian Federation has the advantage,” Zelensky added.

“It is essential to unblock the sky…Where there are air defense systems, Russia immediately withdrew because they were losing aircraft. These systems will unlock the sky and enable our soldiers to move forward,” he continued.

Zelensky also said he was “ready to go” to the frontline with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.

“I think if we are in dialogue on how to finish the war, we have to demonstrate [to] people who are decision makers, what does it mean: the real world. Not in Instagram. Real world,” Zelensky said.

Last year, Zelensky opened the Munich Security Conference with an impassioned video address pleading for faster weapons to repel Russian forces. This year, he attended in person for the first time since Russia’s full scale of invasion almost two years ago.

Later, after meeting US Vice President Kamala Harris, urging Congress to pass the funding.

“For us, this package is vital,” he said. “We do not currently look into alternatives because we are counting on the United States.”

“There is only plan A, which is to ensure that Ukraine receives what it needs,” Harris said.

“I will emphasize that an indication of where we can and frankly must be is that there is bipartisan support in both of our houses of Congress.”

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