Ukraine’s defence minister says half of western arms arrive later than promised

Ukraine’s defence minister, Rustem Umerov, said his country was “losing territory” in its grinding war with Russia because “50%” of weapons promised by western partners failed to reach Kyiv on time.

Speaking a day after the second anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion, Umerov said his troops had built new fortifications and “thousands of strongholds”. But he said delays in the supply of western equipment were leading to setbacks and deaths on the battlefield.

“We have a plan. We are working to the plan. We are doing everything possible and impossible. But without timely supply [of western arms] it’s hard for us,” he conceded.

According to Umerov, Russia has spent $150bn (£119bn) in its all-out attack on Ukraine, amounting to 15% of its entire GDP. With House Republicans in Washington blocking a US military aid package, Ukraine’s armed forces are running out of air defence missiles and artillery shells.

F-16 jets promised by an international coalition including the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium have yet to arrive. They are expected some time this spring. Umerov said history showed that it was impossible for any country to win a war without “air superiority”.

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Despite these disadvantages, Ukraine had won back the Black Sea, he said, using drones to sink Russian warships. It had also clawed back territory in the north-east and south of the country, he said – a reference to the 2022 liberation of Kharkiv oblast and the city of Kherson.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is expected to set out his vision of how Ukraine can beat Russia at a press conference later on Sunday. He will address the media against a gloomier backdrop, at home and abroad, and after the recent loss to Russia of the eastern frontline city of Avdiivka.

A Muslim and Crimean Tatar, Umerov has been in post since September. His predecessor, Oleksii Reznikov, was fired after a series of corruption scandals involving his ministry. Last year two senior officials lost their jobs amid claims contracts for food supplied to troops were being inflated.

“For me corruption at a time of war is worse than terrorism,” Umerov said. He said his colleagues working with other government agencies were taking measures to “eradicate corruption routes” and to prevent the problem.

Ukraine had dramatically scaled up drone production, and was constructing its own version of Russia’s Lancet drone, he added. It had also produced models capable of flying 500 miles to hit strategic targets deep inside Russia, as well as more than a million first-person view drones.

Officials indicated that in a time of artillery shortages, home-produced drones would be the first line of defence, as Russia tries to advance with armoured vehicles and infantry. “This is a war of firsts. It is the first war where more than 8,000 missiles were hurled against Ukraine and with massive drone involvement,” he said.