By Rebecca Black, PA
A Ukrainian politician has made a plea for heavy weapons, saying his country is “outgunned and outnumbered” by the Russian attack.
Oleksandr Merezhko said Ukraine has only 10 per cent of what it needs to defend itself.
He made the appeal while appearing virtually at an Irish parliament committee meeting on Tuesday, the day after a Russian attack on a packed shopping centre in Kremenchuk caused shock across the world.
“Our top priority to survive is we need heavy weapons,” the chair of the Ukrainian Committee on Foreign Affairs and Inter-parliamentary cooperation said.
“It is crucial because we are outgunned and outnumbered by Russia.
“Russia is using heavy artillery. First, Russia uses jets heavily shelling bombardments, then it uses mortars, then tanks, and only after that it uses infantry, so the tactics of Russia is to destroy completely everything in front of their troops by using artillery.
“We need to help our soldiers to survive and civilians.”
He said Ukraine appreciates every effort, including financial support, to obtain heavy weaponry.
“We have only 10 per cent of what we need. We need [to] reach parity in terms of heavy weaponry with Russia,” he said.
Mr Merezhko also accused Russia of “blackmailing the world” in terms of grain.
“Ukraine is one of the breadbaskets of the whole world and Russia is deliberately blockading our ports and won’t allow our grain to be exported,” he said, adding the move is also to “economically destroy Ukraine”.
“It’s a matter of food security for the whole world.”
Mr Merezhko described the coming weeks as potentially crucial.
“I’m sure that Russia will never be able to occupy most of the territory in Ukraine for the very simple reason, we’re defending our homes and we’re defending our families, we have no choice, surrender is not an option for us,” he said.
“But it is very difficult, without support of the civilised democratic world it will be very difficult.
“I hope that in two months Russia will be exhausted, we’re already seeing certain signs of that.
“If we get what we were promised, heavy weaponry, the situation might change crucially.
“I’m certain of one thing, we will never surrender, that Russians won’t be able to take over big Ukrainian cities, like Kharkiv, like Odessa.
“At the same time the situation is very dangerous but we keep fighting and I’m sure strategically Putin has already lost and it’s a matter of time when Ukraine will emerge victorious. But to do that and to save lives we need your help.”
There is no neutrality in the face of struggle between evil and freedom
Mr Merezhko also said Ukraine feels like it is fighting the war of the west.
He said he has been “bitterly disappointed” by some big countries.
On the other hand, he said the United States has “proved to be a reliable friend… delivering weapons within one day”.
He also described the UK, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Ireland as reliable friends.
“Other countries unfortunately sometimes they are hesitant, less enthusiastic,” he said.
Turning to the issue of neutrality, Mr Merezhko said: “There is no neutrality in the face of struggle between evil and freedom.”
“There can be no neutrality when you see a hooligan killing an innocent person,” he said.
“When you’re fighting against the second biggest army in the world, unfortunately the best, the most experienced soldiers have to sacrifice their lives. It’s a problem for us.
“We are peaceful people, we want to end this as soon as possible. There are certain red lines, our territorial integrity, our freedom and our right to choose to be part of the European family.
“But again, what can stop this war and prevent future losses of lives, heavy weapons. This is the best kind of humanitarian aid – heavy weaponry.
“Putin understands only a language of strength, and the more we’re protected, the more heavy weaponry we have, the more effectively we defend ourselves, the less casualties there will be.”