Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed for more air defence systems as he made his first major trip abroad on Wednesday with a visit to Lithuania as part of a three-nation tour of the Baltics.
Zelensky said Ukraine was badly in need of help to protect the country’s residents from the regular barrage of Russian missiles and drones.
“Air defence systems are primarily among the things we lack,” he said after a meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda in Vilnius.
Zelensky said Russia fired at least 500 missiles and drones at Ukraine in the final days of 2023 and the first days of 2024. Some 70% of these were intercepted by Ukraine’s air defences.
Nauseda assured Zelensky of his country’s continued military, economic and political support, saying Lithuania will send ammunition, generators and armoured personnel carriers in the coming weeks.
Lithuania, which borders the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and Russia’s ally Belarus, is one of Kiev’s key supporters. According to Nauseda, the government has approved a long-term plan for military aid worth around €200 million ($219 million).
In his and Zelensky’s presence, several agreements were signed by representatives of the two countries’ defence industries.
In the coming days, Zelensky is set to travel to the two other Baltic EU and NATO members, Latvia and Estonia.
With his visit, Zelensky said he wanted to thank the countries for their “uncompromising support for Ukraine.”
“Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are our reliable friends and principled partners,” Zelensky wrote on social media before landing in Vilnius.
“Security, EU and NATO integration, cooperation on electronic warfare and drones, and further coordination of European support are all on the agenda,” he wrote.
Zelensky last visited Lithuania in July 2023. At that time, he took part in a NATO summit and gave a speech to a crowd of thousands.
Former Soviet republics Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are among the most determined advocates of Ukraine, providing Kiev with military, financial and humanitarian support.
They are also pushing for tougher sanctions on Moscow at the EU level and more arms deliveries to Kiev.
Ukraine has been fending off a Russian invasion for almost two years and is largely dependent on Western support for its equipment.
Zelensky said in Vilnius that he felt no pressure from allies to freeze the war along the current front line. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s previous vow to occupy all of Ukraine must be taken seriously.
If his country did not stand firm, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia or Moldova would be the next countries at risk, he said.
Zelensky called for joint resistance against Putin: “He will not stop until we finish him off.”