Ukraine's Zelenskyy gets more air defense missiles from Spain to fight deadly Russian glide bombs

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union defense ministers are meeting in Brussels Tuesday to try again to overcome Hungary’s objections to providing billions of euros in military aid to Kyiv, in its third year of war since Russia’s full-scale invasion began.

This comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is to inspect the F-16 jets Belgium will send to his country. He is on a whirlwind two-day tour of Spain, Belgium and Portugal to drum up other support.

An estimated 6.5 billion euros ($7 billion) are stalled by the Hungarian government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, considered Russia’s staunchest ally in the 27-nation bloc.

Single-member states have wide veto powers and Hungary has long held up funds aimed at boosting Ukraine’s defense efforts.

“We need all these critical decisions and still there are too many decisions which are not made,” Estonian defense minister, Hanno Pevkur, told reporters ahead of the meeting. “The urgency is very, very acute.”

Zelenskyy successfully secured Monday a Spanish pledge for additional air defense missiles to help fight the nearly 3,000 bombs that he says Russia launches against Ukraine every month.

Still, Ukraine urgently needs another seven U.S.-made Patriot air defense systems to stop Russia from hitting the power grid and civilian areas, as well as military targets, with devastating glide bombs that wreak wide destruction, Zelenskyy said.

The Ukrainian president and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez signed a bilateral security agreement that allocates 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) of military aid to Ukraine in 2024, and 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) by 2027. More Leopard tanks and artillery ammunition are also included in the package.

He was set to visit Belgium and Spain earlier this month but postponed all his foreign trips after Russia launched its offensive in the Kharkiv region.

Ukraine has repeatedly tried to strike behind Russian lines, often with drones, though Russia’s response to the new technology used in unmanned vehicles has improved in recent months.

The onslaught unfolding as the weather improves has brought Ukraine’s biggest military test since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. Slow deliveries of support by its Western partners, especially a lengthy delay in U.S. military aid, have left Ukraine at the mercy of Russia’s bigger army and air force.

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