Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on as he pays his respects in front of The Wall of Remembrance of the Fallen for Ukraine, in Kyiv on the Day of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, on Dec. 6, in this handout photograph taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service.HANDOUT/Getty Images

U.S. and Ukrainian government representatives sign agreement to speed weapons co-production and data sharing at a conference in Washington on Wednesday.

The letter of intent was signed at a meeting of U.S. and Ukrainian industry and government representatives and “will prioritize co-production and technical data exchange to address the urgent operational needs of the armed forces in Ukraine,” Jason Israel, the White House National Security Council’s Director for Defense Policy and Strategy told an audience of more than 200 gathered in the Department of Commerce auditorium.

Areas of concentration include “air defence systems, repair and sustainment and production of critical munitions,” Israel told the audience.

The letter was signed by the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer Bill LaPlante, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov and its Minister for Strategic Industries, Oleksandr Kamyshin.

The three-day conference kicked off on Wednesday and included high-level speakers from both governments including U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Ukraine’s Head of the Office of the President Andriyy Yermak and the Minister of Defense.

The event is being hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce and is part of a U.S. government effort to increase weapons production in support of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainians on Wednesday that Kyiv would defeat Russia and win a fair peace “against all odds” as the future of vital U.S. military and financial aid hung in the balance.

Zelensky delivered his defiant message in an unusual early-morning video that showed him walking through Kyiv on his way to pay his respects to fallen soldiers on what Ukraine marks as Armed Forces Day.

“It has been difficult, but we have persevered,” said Zelensky, who filmed himself on a mobile phone as he walked from his office down the central Hrushevskoho street towards central Kyiv’s “wall of remembrance”.

“It is not easy now, but we are moving. No matter how difficult it is, we will get there. To our borders, to our people. To our peace. Fair peace. Free peace. Against all odds.”

His remarks appeared to respond to uncertainty over the future of a $60-billion aid package being debated in U.S. Congress that has been stuck for weeks.

On the streets of Kyiv, residents said they were worried and already felt the pain from delays in Western military aid.

“I’m scared that if Ukraine is left without help, the war will drag on longer and longer and it will be difficult to say when it could end,” Olha Starostenko, a 33-year-old economist, told Reuters TV.

“A friend of mine recently died fighting. We need to get the help as soon as possible, every day of delay means loss of human lives,” said Tymur Dushko, 51, who works as an adviser on labour security.

“These are power games that are going on … But I’m convinced that we will receive aid,” he added.

Kyiv has relied heavily on assistance from its Western allies against Russia’s much bigger army in the biggest war in Europe since World War Two, now in its 22nd month.

A proposed European Union military aid package has also run into resistance from some members of the bloc.

On Tuesday, Zelensky cancelled plans to address U.S. lawmakers to appeal directly for the aid as Congress wrangles over Republican demands to tie the assistance to a revamp of U.S. immigration and border policies.

In one of the bleakest assessments yet by a senior Ukrainian official, Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said on Tuesday that postponement of the U.S. aid created a “big risk” that Ukraine would lose the war.

Moscow controls about 17.5% of Ukraine’s territory, and Ukrainian forces are now facing a new Russian offensive on the eastern front, with especially fierce fighting around the towns of Avdiivka and Mariinka.

In his video, Zelensky greeted people as he walked down the slippery, winter streets. He said Ukraine had no alternative except to liberate its territories occupied by Russia.

“These are our lands. These are our people. Is there an alternative? No. Nine years and 651 days of the war are behind us. Victory is ahead. And how else? Could there be an alternative? We all know: no,” Zelensky said.

He was later shown paying his respects at the wall of remembrance created in 2014 to commemorate victims of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Moscow seized the peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backed a militant insurgency in the east.

While the original panels were neatly structured with orderly military pictures, that changed after Russia’s invasion in February 2022. Grieving families placed hundreds of personal photos there.

Zelensky said the wall would help strengthen Ukrainians’ spirit against “fear, mistrust, despair, discord and thoughts of giving up.”

Also, Russia launched a major drone attack on southern, central and eastern Ukrainian regions overnight, damaging privately-owned and commercial buildings as well as infrastructure, Kyiv officials said on Wednesday.

Air defences shot down 41 of 48 Russian drones launched from Russia’s western Kursk region and the occupied peninsula of Crimea seized by Moscow in 2014, the air force said. Only Iranian-made “Shahed” drones were used for the attack, it said.

Drone attacks have happened almost nightly for weeks and the latest strike was the largest one so far this month.

The Ukrainian President’s office said people’s homes and commercial buildings were damaged by drone debris in various regions.

Unspecified infrastructure facilities in several regions and a natural gas pipe in the northeast Kharkiv region were damaged, it said in a statement.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

DTEK, Ukraine’s largest private energy producer, said one of its thermal power stations located in a frontline region in the east was shelled for the sixth time this month.

It said on Telegram messenger that heating to residents was disrupted but did not give a specific number of people affected. Temperatures in Ukraine are well below zero Celsius.

As a second winter of war sets in, Ukrainians fear that Russia plans to target its energy system.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe