U.S., NATO see Ukraine in urgent need of more arms, Zelenskiy says speed crucial

  • NATO wants to keep weapons flowing while Russia on offensive
  • Stockpiles dwindling as Ukraine war nears first anniversary
  • U.S. secretary of defence says allies with Kyiv for long haul

BRUSSELS, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Ukraine urgently needs more military aid, the United States and NATO said on Tuesday, pledging that western support will not falter in the face of a new Russian offensive as the war was about to mark the first full year since it began.

Western defence chiefs met in Brussels to discuss new arms provisions to Kyiv, which is pleading for greater firepower, and maintenance of existing supplies including shells whose production can hardly keep pace with the war.

"Ukraine has urgent requirements to help it meet this crucial moment in the course of the war," U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at a meeting of the so-called Ramstein group of allies.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia was in a hurry to achieve as much as it could with its latest offensive before Kyiv and its allies could gather strength.

"That is why speed is of the essence. Speed in everything - adopting decisions, carrying out decisions, shipping supplies, training. Speed saves people's lives, speed brings back security," he said in an evening video address.

Zelenskiy - thanking allies for their promises of more air defence weapons, tanks, artillery, shells and training - said much of what had been discussed should be kept a secret.

Austin said he expected Ukrainian forces to conduct an offensive of their own in the spring, and Kyiv's allies were working to ensure they had the armour, firepower and the logistics to make it effective.

"We believe that there'll be a window of opportunity for them to exercise initiative," Austin said.

"The Kremlin is still betting it can wait us out, but one year on we are as united as ever. That shared resolve will help sustain Ukraine's momentum in the crucial weeks ahead."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gave the same message about Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion.

"We see no signs that President Putin is preparing for peace. What we see is the opposite, he is preparing for more war, for new offensives and new attacks," he told reporters.

Nevertheless, the top U.S. general, Mark Milley, said Russia had already lost in the eyes of the world.

"Russia is now a global pariah and the world remains inspired by Ukrainian bravery and resilience. In short, Russia has lost: they've lost strategically, operationally and tactically," Milley, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.

NATO defence ministers met with Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov after the Ramstein group gathering.

The alliance plans to increase targets for stockpiling ammunition as Kyiv is burning through shells much faster than the West can produce them, leaving stocks badly depleted.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius called on the national defence industry to ramp up production capacity.

He said Berlin had signed contracts with arms maker Rheinmetall (RHMG.DE) to restart production of ammunition for the Gepard anti-aircraft guns it has delivered to Kyiv.

It had been trying for months to find new munitions for the guns, which its own military decommissioned in 2010.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Bart Meijer, Benoit Van Overstraeten, Andrew Gray, Charlotte Van Campenhout, Tassilo Hummel, David Ljunggren and Ron Popeski; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Andrew Cawthorne, Mike Harrison and David Gregorio

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Andrew is a senior correspondent for European security and diplomacy, based in Brussels. He covers NATO and the foreign policy of the European Union. A journalist for almost 30 years, he has previously been based in the UK, Germany, Geneva, the Balkans, West Africa and Washington, where he reported on the Pentagon. He covered the Iraq war in 2003 and contributed a chapter to a Reuters book on the conflict. He has also worked at Politico Europe as a senior editor and podcast host, served as the main editor for a fellowship programme for journalists from the Balkans, and contributed to the BBC's From Our Own Correspondent radio show.