Nato allies and partner countries have delivered more than 98% of the combat vehicles promised to Ukraine to fight Russia’s invasion, the military alliance’s chief has said Thursday, giving Kyiv a bigger punch as contemplates a counter-offensive.
Along with more than 1,550 armoured vehicles, 230 tanks and other equipment, Ukraine’s allies have sent “vast amounts of ammunition” and trained and equipped more than nine new Ukrainian brigades, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said.
More than 30,000 troops are estimated to make up the new brigades. Some Nato partner countries such as Sweden and Australia have also provided armoured vehicles.
His comments came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had a “long and meaningful” phone call in their first known contact since Russia’s full-scale invasion more than a year ago.
Though Mr Zelensky said he was encouraged by Wednesday’s call and western officials welcomed Mr Xi’s move, the development did not appear to bring about any immediate shift in peace prospects.
Russia and Ukraine are far apart in their terms for peace, and Beijing — while looking to position itself as a global diplomatic power — has refused to criticise Moscow’s invasion.
The Chinese government sees Russia as a diplomatic ally in opposing US influence in global affairs, and Mr Xi visited Moscow last month.
Ukrainian officials said China’s overture was encouraging. Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Thursday described the call between Mr Xi and Mr Zelenskyy as “very productive”, adding: “I’m convinced it is a good beginning for our relations in the future.”
Asked if the call could help end the fighting, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “We are ready to welcome anything that could lead to the termination of the conflict in Ukraine and the achievement of all the goals set by Russia.”
He said the conversation was “the sovereign business of those countries and the issue of their bilateral dialogue”.
At least seven civilians were killed and 33 injured between Wednesday and Thursday, Ukraine’s presidential office said.
They included one person killed and 23 wounded, including a child, when four Kalibr cruise missiles hit the southern city of Mykolaiv, official said.
The governor of Mykolaiv province, Vitalii Kim, said 22 multi-storey buildings, 12 private houses and other residential buildings were damaged in the attack.
Kalibr missiles are launched from ships or submarines, The ones that hit Mykolaiv were fired from somewhere in the Black Sea, according to Ukraine’s Operational Command South.