Ukraine and the United States have agreed to launch joint weapons production in a step that will enable Kyiv to start producing air defence systems, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says as he wraps up a visit to the US.
In his daily address to Ukrainians, Zelenskiy said the long-term agreement would create jobs and a new industrial base in Ukraine, whose economy has been devastated by Russia’s invasion.
“It was a very important visit to Washington, very important results,” Zelenskiy said in a video posted on the presidential website on Friday morning.
“And a long-term agreement – we will work together so that Ukraine produces the necessary weapons together with the United States.
“Co-production in the defence (sector) with the United States is a historic thing.”
Kyiv has stepped up efforts to boost domestic weapons production as much as possible because 19 months of war has created a huge demand for arms and ammunition to fend off Russian attacks along a 1000km front line.
Alliance with US defence Industries
Russian air strikes across Ukraine have caused widespread damage and killed many people.
Zelenskiy said the Ministry for Strategic Industries, which oversees weapons production in Ukraine, had signed co-operation agreements with three associations, uniting more than 2000 defence US companies, on future possible work in Ukraine.
“We are preparing to create a new defence ecosystem with the United States to produce weapons to strengthen further freedom and protect life together,” Zelenskiy said without disclosing more details.
Ukraine depends heavily on Western military support.
To reduce its dependence, Zelenskiy and his team have been pushing for reforms in the domestic defence industry to modernise local producers and increase supplies to the front.
Zelenskiy has said previously Kyiv would soon host an international arms production forum, inviting companies from more than 20 countries.
Losing ground in Washington
The government is also implementing reforms at its main weapons production company – Ukroboronprom – to improve transparency, boost production capacity and enable it to co-operate more actively with Western producers.
Ukraine has already agreed on several joint projects with central European producers to repair Ukrainian tanks and other vehicles and has been working to develop drone and missile production.
After seeking to shore up international support at the United Nations, Zelenskiy had travelled to Washington on a cross-town blitz that included meetings with military leaders at the Pentagon and a visit to the US Capitol ahead of an address in the evening at the National Archives museum.
While President Joe Biden and most congressional leaders still support aid to Ukraine, and Biden’s Democrats control the Senate, Zelenskiy faced a tougher crowd than when he visited Washington nine months ago.
Dressed in military green to reflect his status as a wartime leader, Zelenskiy briefed the full US Senate in the Capitol’s historic Old Senate Chamber, receiving several standing ovations, according to a post on the platform X by Senator Chris Murphy.
“We had great dialogue,” Zelenskiy told reporters at the Capitol after the meeting.
Zelenskiy also held discussions with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other senior Pentagon leaders and visited the Pentagon’s 9/11 memorial, where he and his wife each placed a bouquet of sunflowers, irises and other flowers.
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