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Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda, right, talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Alamy

Zelensky seeks air defence help from Baltic nations amid Russian drone and missile strikes

Zelensky said Ukraine still must bolster its air defences against Russia’s intensified missile and drone onslaughts

UKRAINE HAS SHOWN the world that Russia’s military can be stopped, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, as he began a visit to the Baltic nations in search of more help for his country against the Kremlin’s larger and better-supplied forces in the 22-month-old invasion.

Speaking in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, Zelensky said Ukraine still must bolster its air defences against Russia’s intensified missile and drone onslaughts and replenish its ammunition supplies as long-range strikes become the main feature of this winter’s fighting.

“We have proven that Russia can be stopped, that deterrence is possible,” he said after talks with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on his first foreign trip of the year.

The massive Russian barrages, more than 500 drones and missiles were fired between December 29 and January 2, according to officials in Kyiv, are using up Ukraine’s weapons stockpiles, however.

The escalation is stretching Ukraine’s air defence resources and leaving the country vulnerable unless it can secure further weapons supplies.

“We lack modern air defence systems badly,” Mr Zelensky said, noting that they are “what we need the most”.

He acknowledged, however, that stockpiles are low in countries that could provide such material.

“Warehouses are empty.

“And there are many challenges to world defence,” he said.

in-this-photo-provided-by-the-ukrainian-presidential-press-office-ukraines-president-volodymyr-zelenskyy-left-attends-the-signing-ceremony-of-a-joint-statement-with-lithuanias-president-gitanas-n Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, attends the signing ceremony of a joint statement with Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda Alamy Alamy

Ukraine hopes to accelerate development of its domestic defence industry and establish joint projects with foreign governments to speed up ammunition and weapons production.

Ukrainian officials travelling with Mr Zelensky signed several documents on cooperation on joint arms production.

Similar agreements are expected in the other Baltic countries Mr Zelensky is expected to visit this week.

The focus of his two-day trip to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, Mr Zelensky said on his official Telegram channel, will be security concerns, Ukraine’s hopes to join the European Union and Nato, and building partnerships in drone production and electronic warfare capacities.

Mr Zelensky thanked Lithuania for its military assistance and goodwill.

He was expected in Estonia and Latvia on Thursday.

“We know how tiring this long-running war is, and we are interested in Ukraine’s complete victory in it as soon as possible,” Mr Nauseda told reporters.

The small eastern European countries are among Ukraine’s staunchest political, financial and military supporters, and some in the Baltics worry that they could be Moscow’s next target.

The three countries were seized and annexed by Josef Stalin during the Second World War before regaining independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

They joined Nato in 2004, placing themselves under the military protection of the US and its Western allies.

“Democratic countries have done a lot to help Ukraine, but we need to do more together so that Ukraine wins and the aggressor loses,” Estonian President Alar Karis said in a statement.

“Then there is the hope that this will remain the last military aggression in Europe, where someone wants to dictate to their neighbour with missiles, drones and cannons what political choices can be made,” he said.

In his Telegram message, Zelensky expressed gratitude to the Baltic countries for their “uncompromising” support of Ukraine over the past 10 years, referring to 2014 when Russia’s aggression started with the illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula.

Russia’s recent escalation of missile and drone attacks is stretching Ukraine’s air defence resources, a Ukrainian air force official said, leaving the country vulnerable unless it can secure further weapons supplies.

Press Association