Ukraine's Zelenskiy asks European leaders for air defence, tanks, weapons

RIGA, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday asked Western leaders meeting in Latvia, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to supply a wide range of weapons systems to help end Europe's deadliest conflict since World War Two sooner.

While Western allies, led by the United States, have been supporting Ukraine with funding, military training and weapons, Kyiv has said still more was needed to tip the balance in its 10-month-old campaign against Russia in Ukraine's favour.

"A lot depends on you - how this war will end. The more successful our defence forces are, the faster the Russian aggression will fail," Zelenskiy said during his video link address to leaders of countries in the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a British-led grouping of Northern European countries.

"I ask you to increase the possibility of supplying air defence systems to our country, and to help speed up the relevant decisions to be taken by our partners," Zelenskiy said, addressing Sunak.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told Reuters after the meeting that there was not enough time to discuss Zelenskiy's detailed list of requests. But responding earlier to Ukrainian leader's plea, Sunak said the gathering aimed to focus on "how best we can continue to support you and get you everything that you need".

Zelenskiy, in an apparent dig at Berlin, said "there is no explanation" why Ukraine is not supplied by German-made Leopard tanks, and asked the Netherlands, whose forces use the tanks, to "please talk about this decision together with your partners."

"For our defence operations to be more successful we need armoured vehicles, primarily tanks," said Zelenskiy. Germany is not part of the JEF grouping and was not present at the Riga meeting.

He asked Norway to supply more of Norway-made NASAMS launchers and missiles and Sweden for Swedish-produced Gripen fighter aircraft, RBS 98 missiles and Archer artillery.

Zelenskiy also asked Denmark to transfer Ceasar howizers to Ukraine, Finland for more ammunition shells, Lithuania for NASAM as well as Stinger missiles, Latvia for artillery, and Estonia for howizers and ammunition.

"The sooner we restore our border control, the stronger your security will be," Zelenskiy said. "Ukrainian children in their letters to St Nicholas ask for air defence, for weapons, for victory," he said, referring to the name used for Santa Claus in Ukraine.

Led by Britain, JEF is configured to respond rapidly to crises in the Northern Europe, and includes Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.

Reporting by Andrius Sytas, editing by Terje Solsvik, Stine Jacobsen and Tomasz Janowski

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