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Momentum in the war has shifted and Ukraine says it needs more weapons


As NATO countries begin talks in Brussels, Ukraine is sending a very clear message - they need more heavy weapons, and fast. Ukraine's military is losing ground to Russia in the heavy fighting in the eastern part of the country. NPR's Greg Myre is in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, where a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told him why Ukraine thinks it needs these weapons so urgently.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: The momentum in the war has shifted. Russia has this overwhelming advantage in heavy artillery. It's using this firepower to grind down Ukraine in the eastern part of the country. It's on the verge of capturing another key city, Severodonetsk. And to drive home this message, a senior presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, invited an NPR team into the heavily fortified presidential compound on a hill overlooking the city. And like a lot of people in President Zelenskyy's administration, Podolyak is young and informal. He was wearing a black T-shirt that read, fight like Ukrainians. There were several pairs of sneakers next to his desk. So his appearance was very casual, but his message was very, very serious. Ukraine is in a tough spot on the battlefield right now.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so what specifically, then, is Ukraine looking for?

MYRE: Well, they couldn't be more direct. Podolyak himself tweeted out a wish list on Monday. He says, Ukraine wants a thousand howitzers, a thousand drones, 500 tanks, and the list goes on from there. And in our talk, here's how he described the Russian advantage on the battlefield.

MYKHAILO PODOLYAK: (Through interpreter) Now we see that this is truly a war of artillery, and we see that they are shooting by a ratio of 10 or 15 to 1. Again, the math is clear. We will need parity of weapons if we're going to be effective in any sort of counteroffensive.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so a thousand howitzers, a thousand drones - how doable is that?

MYRE: Well, the U.S. and NATO have been sending weapons that he's asking for, and more are on the way, but they're not coming in nearly these quantities, and there's little chance that they will. Now, Ukraine is speaking out loudly right now because NATO is starting a two-day meeting in Brussels today - U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be there - and this will provide a sense of whether NATO is able and willing to ramp up weapons shipments to Ukraine above and beyond what member states have already done.

MARTÍNEZ: Any other options for Ukraine if that doesn't work out?

MYRE: Well, not really. Podolyak explained that Ukraine is facing a growing problem. Many of its existing weapons, which date to the Soviet era - Ukraine is burning through the ammunition stockpiles, and Russia is pretty much the only country that still makes ammunition for these weapons. So as this war grinds on, Ukraine says that some of these weapons could essentially become useless, and that means they'll have to rely more and more on a modern NATO arsenal. And in one final note - as we were about to leave Podolyak's office, he stopped and offered us one final message. If you get anything out of this interview, he said, it's weapons, weapons, weapons.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. That's NPR's Greg Myre in Kyiv. Greg, thanks a lot.

MYRE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.