With tanks on the way, Ukraine’s defence minister sets his sights on fighter jets

Ukraine’s minister of defence says that with main battle tanks supplied by allies now on the way, his country’s next hope is to secure military aircraft that could be a “game changer” in its fight against Russia.

In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live airing Sunday, Oleksii Reznikov said he had written a “wish list to Santa” and that on the list “remains jet fighters, fighter jets, aircraft and probably rockets … long-hand options to hit the Russians’ fuel depots, ammunition depots and their commanders.”

Reznikov told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton that he hoped that the new two weeks of discussions with European and North American allies over military aircraft would lead to commitments. He noted that as the war has developed, military equipment that was once denied Ukraine has started to flow, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, as well as long range artillery and air defence systems.

“For me, everything that’s impossible today [will be] possible tomorrow,” he said.

Speaking earlier this week, Germany’s defence minister Boris Pistorius “ruled out” sending fighter jets to Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine is grinding toward its one-year mark. Since Russia first launched its full-scale invasion in February, Ukraine has beat back major attacks and regained substantial lost territory, but significant parts of the country’s south and east remain under occupation and fighting is still intense.

Reznikov said his generals were telling him the military situation in the east was “difficult but under control.”

Two tanks carrying soldiers are shown side by side.
A Canadian Forces Leopard 2A4 tank on the firing range at CFB Gagetown in Oromocto, N.B., in 2012. (David Smith/The Canadian Press)

Negotiations within the bloc of countries supporting Ukraine has centred in recent weeks on the question of whether to supply the beleaguered country with modern battle tanks. Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States all promised vehicles, and Germany this week agreed to do the same under intense pressure.

A day later, Canada announced it would be sending four of its own tanks, Leopard 2s, to Ukraine.

“These tanks will allow Ukraine to liberate even more of its territory and defend its people from Russia’s brutal invasion. These four tanks are combat-ready and will be deployed over the coming weeks,” Defence Minister Anita Anand said Thursday.

Reznikov said the promises of tanks are “not the end of the story, it’s just the start of the story.”

He acknowledged that it would take time to receive the tanks and train crews to use them, but hoped they would be ready for a spring campaign, setting a target for March.

Russia has condemned the increasing supply of weapons being sent to Ukraine as an escalation in the conflict, while it continues to mobilize and train hundreds of thousands of fresh troops.

Concerns over wartime profiteering

Reznikov has faced criticism domestically due to concerns that officials in the defence department have been profiting from contracts related to the war. Ukraine’s deputy defence minister resigned on Tuesday, and its deputy infrastructure minister was fire in a separate scandal.

Reznikov has said he did not know about the contract, which allegedly purchased rations at inflated prices, and that there had been no impact on the troops.

But he acknowledged that the country needed to strike a balance between wartime secrecy and Ukraine should move toward a more transparent system and “European standard” of anti-corruption practices, in advance of the end of the war.

On the question of when the war might end, Reznikov said he remained an optimist.

“I hope that this year becomes a year of victory,” he said, but acknowledged there was must do to before then.

“We we would like to [have victory] as soon as possible. Ukrainian people want that. But we will see.”

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