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Time to give Ukraine ‘shield’ (air defense) and ‘sword’ (long-range missiles) – Estonian FM

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Foreign ministers of Latvia, Iceland, Estonia, Lithuania and Finland begin the long journey to Kyiv on Sunday in Vilnius | Lili Bayer/POLITICO

The Estonian minister called for a two-pronged approach: giving Ukraine a “shield” and a “sword.” The shield, he said, “means all the types of air defense systems” while the sword entails “long-range missiles, so that they could reach also to these places from where the missiles which are intended to destroy their civic infrastructure are launched.”

Ukraine’s partners “have to take into account the need to provide Ukraine with air defense systems so that we can prevent the Russians from hitting the new equipment,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström in between meetings with Ukrainian officials Monday, noting that his country will provide air defense systems as part of a winter assistance package.

Others echoed the view that military aid should remain at the top of Western partners’ agenda.

“Even though there are very pressing needs,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said, “from my side I think that I will be advocating that we cannot forget that the main task is that we need to help Ukraine win the war.”

The Lithuanian minister, who is pushing for Western governments to provide Ukrainian forces with more tanks, said that “Russia is able to create problems when it’s under sanctions” and “the only way to stop it is to let Ukraine win.”

“I would say that the most urgent thing is something that can save our people and help us survive the winter, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna said in an interview Monday.

“First and foremost is the air defense systems and missiles to these systems,” she said, “as much as possible.”

“It’s very tragic to see buildings and facilities being destroyed,” said Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, describing his impression of the city on Monday morning.

“We arrive here in the middle of the winter, it’s easy to see that this is a hard time for a country where you have been, you know, subject to so much terrorizing bomb attacks from Russia,” said Sweden’s Billström.

Foreign ministers of Latvia, Sweden, Iceland, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland and Norway hold an informal discussion on a train to Kyiv | Lili Bayer/POLITICO

Now, however, the “situation is a little bit different,” the minister acknowledged. “Governments will have to step in more,” the Lithuanian minister added, “and I think that there are things the European Union — all of us together — could do more” to help civilians who may be seeking “to relocate to safer areas within Ukraine.”

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