NATO countries have delivered more than 98% of the combat vehicles promised to Ukraine amid its war with Russia, the military alliance’s chief said on April 27, giving Kyiv a bigger punch as it appears poised to launch a counteroffensive.
Along with more than 1,550 armored vehicles, 230 tanks and other equipment, member nations have sent Ukraine “vast amounts of ammunition” and also 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.
"This will put Ukraine in a strong position to continue to retake occupied territory,” Mr. Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
His comments came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy 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. Zelenskyy said he was encouraged by Wednesday's (April 26) call and Western officials welcomed Mr. Xi's move, the development didn’t 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 criticize Moscow's invasion. The Chinese government sees Russia as a diplomatic ally in opposing U.S. influence in global affairs, and Mr. Xi visited Moscow last month.
Mr. Stoltenberg said the 31 NATO allies were committed to shoring up Ukraine's military, adding that taking back land occupied by the Kremlin's forces would give Kyiv a stronger negotiating position if peace talks occur.
The Kremlin gave a lukewarm response to the call between Mr. Xi and Mr. Zelenskyy.
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.”
Mr. Peskov said the conversation between the Chinese and Ukrainian leaders was “the sovereign business of those countries and the issue of their bilateral dialogue.”
With battlefield positions in Ukraine largely static as a war of attrition took hold in recent months, Russian forces have kept up their bombardment of Ukrainian areas, often hitting apartment buildings and other civilian infrastructure.
At least seven civilians were killed and 33 were injured between April 26 and 27, Ukraine's Presidential office said on April 27.
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.