Artillery vehicle

Zelenskyy asked U.S. lawmakers for more advanced drones, artillery and anti-ship missiles, congressman says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, third from right, meets with a U.S. Congressional delegation, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Saturday, April 30, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office)

WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., that his country’s armed forces need sophisticated drones, rocket artillery and anti-ship missiles to repel the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine and unblock key seaports, the congressman said. Wednesday.

Zelenskyy spoke at length on Saturday with Crow, a former army ranger, during an unannounced congressional visit to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, outlining top priorities for future US arms shipments. At the top of the wish list were general-purpose drones, multiple rocket launchers and Harpoon missiles to break Russia’s dominance in the Black Sea, Crow told reporters.

“[Zelenskyy] was very clear that the Ukrainian military would not be in the position it is in now and would not be able to deal with the Russian onslaught without…the weapons that we provided,” the congressman said. . “But it was also clear that this battle is changing…and that’s going to require different kinds of support.”

Ukrainian troops use Switchblade drones that explode on impact to great effect, but Zelenskyy said he needed more advanced, longer-range drones armed with precision ammunition and able to be reused, said said Crow. The Phoenix Ghost drones the United States is sending in its latest military aid program are also said to be single-use.

The fight for Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian forces face Russian forces at long distances, will also require increased artillery deliveries, in particular the M142 high-mobility artillery rocket system, said Crow. The pitcher could prove decisive on the battlefield, he said.

“It would really have a devastating impact on the Russian military and provide the Ukrainians with a new tool to defend themselves and effectively retake territory that was taken by the Russians,” Crow said.

For the front lines in the south, Zelenskyy is asking for anti-ship missile systems, particularly harpoons, to fend off Russian forces launching missiles from the sea and clear Ukrainian ports for agricultural exports, Crow said.

Ukraine officially closed four ports in the Black Seas and Azov on Monday after they were captured by the Russians. All Ukrainian seaports suspended operations after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of its neighboring country in February, with some ports captured or blockaded by Russian forces.

The resulting blockade has strangled shipments of grain, wheat, sunflower oil and other foods essential to Ukraine’s economy and feeder countries around the world. Ukraine is sitting on 12 million tonnes of supplies and will add to that stock during the summer harvest season, Crow said.

“Russia doesn’t let ships in or out, it controls the Black Sea,” Zelenskyy said Monday in a TV interview. “Russia wants to completely block the economy of our country.”

The harpoons would provide the Ukrainian military with sufficient defensive capability to enable the removal of anti-ship mines from the port of Odessa, a key city on the Black Sea which the Ukrainians exploited to prevent Russian forces from carrying out an amphibious assault, Crow said.

“If we can get them the missiles, they can remove the mines and then we can negotiate and set up a humanitarian shipping corridor, start getting food and agricultural shipments out of Ukraine, which would help mitigate and prevent hunger in Africa and the Middle East,” he said.

Zelenskyy is also looking for a new training regimen for the Ukrainian military, Crow said. The president told members of Congress that he could not afford to take his top leadership and most experienced soldiers out of the front lines to train on new weapons systems outside the country.

Crow said the United States needed to establish mobile training teams and a “more permanent and sustainable training presence” to get smaller, more junior Ukrainian troops out of Ukraine on a regular basis. Members of the Florida National Guard recently began training Ukrainians on artillery, radar systems and armored vehicle systems in Germany, the Pentagon announced last week.

Zelenskyy did not ask for a no-fly zone or anything the United States was unable or unwilling to provide during his four-hour meeting with lawmakers, Crow said. The Ukrainian leader was serious and brooding, the congressman said, and had changed markedly since Crow’s last visit to Kyiv in December.

“He became what I think is one of the greatest wartime leaders in history,” Crow said. “He’s someone who understands weapons systems, tactics, strategy, wartime leadership and communicating with the world and with his own people, in a very deep and impressive way.”

Zelenskyy’s pleas for military aid have become more specific and targeted as Ukrainians repeatedly demonstrate their ability to organize and resist the Russian onslaught, Crow said. He echoed suggestions from several senators on Tuesday that an oversight measure, such as a special inspector general, should accompany future US arms shipments.

Keeping tabs on the vast amount of arms and equipment pouring into Ukraine will benefit both countries as Congress deliberates an additional $33 billion aid package for the war-torn nation. Crow said.

“It’s certainly in Ukraine’s interest, they have no interest in losing track of these things,” he said. “They’re a very professional force, a very advanced force and they’re very motivated to make sure they keep these systems under control.”