The United States and NATO said Friday they were confident Ukraine could regain ground in a much-anticipated counter-offensive, as they vowed unwavering support for Kyiv at a key meeting in Germany.

At the talks hosted by the United States, representatives from around 50 nations went "through all the different capabilities, systems, supplies that the Ukrainians need", NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

"I'm confident that they will now be in a position to be able to liberate even more land," the NATO chief said. 

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, who hosted the Ramstein talks, also assessed that efforts by allies to bolster Kyiv "will put Ukraine's forces in a position to continue to succeed on the battlefield".

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had urged Western allies to send more fighter jets and long-range missiles to help repel Russian troops, making his case directly to Stoltenberg who visited Kyiv on Thursday.

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Allies have so far stopped short of sending Western-made fighter jets to Ukraine, focussing on protecting Ukraine from incoming Russian rocket attacks with anti-air missiles.

Top US general Mark Milley underlined that militarily speaking, the most "cost effective, efficient" way to control the airspace at the moment is through air defence rather than fighter jets.

Modern fighter jets were still on Kyiv's "wish list", Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov insisted after the talks.

Russian, US Defense Chiefs Discussed Lowering Escalation in Call
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Russian, US Defense Chiefs Discussed Lowering Escalation in Call

Russia’s Defense Minister called the US Secretary of Defense to “lower risks of returning to a Cold War,” while the Pentagon says sporadic calls are important to “maintaining lines of communication.”

"I am sure that we will have modern, NATO-standard... fighter jets as a part of air defence systems," Reznikov said, acknowledging that it would take time.

Moscow reacted with anger to the latest gathering in Ramstein, with the Russian foreign ministry saying the allies' action for Ukraine "confirms their direct involvement in the conflict and participation in the planning of military operations". 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also accused NATO of trying to "absorb and drag Ukraine into the alliance", showing Russia was right to "launch this operation" to ensure its security. 

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- Battle continues -

Other points of emphasis for the talks included supplying Ukraine with desperately needed ammunition and maintenance for equipment already deployed.

"This is now a battle of attrition, and a battle of attrition becomes a war of logistics," Stoltenberg said, adding, "maybe it's also a bit more boring but the logistics is extremely important".

Earlier in the week, Kyiv confirmed it had received the first shipment of Patriots, seen as one of the most advanced US air defence systems.

The United States is also sending Abrams tanks to Europe for use in training Ukrainian forces. They will arrive “in the next few weeks”, said Austin.

"We are not letting up," German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said.

Training of 100 Ukrainian soldiers on the German-made Leopard 1 tanks would begin on Saturday, Pistorius said, with delivery of "up to 80 units" beginning from the middle of this year.

While talks were going on in Ramstein, battles with continued to rage in the east of Ukraine. 

Several Russian missiles earlier this week ripped the tiles from the roof of Karina's home in Kostyantynivka, a city in the eastern Donetsk region, and very nearly claimed the lives of her, her son and partner.

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"Everything happened unexpectedly," the 40-year-old recounted to AFP standing ankle-deep in mud, staring at the remains of her home.

"Everything started falling apart. And my son screamed, 'Mama, mama.' I was blown away by the blast.

"I thought it was the end," she added.

Kyiv last year ordered the evacuation of residents of the region last year but Karina told AFP she will remain in the Donetsk region despite the attack.

Over a year into its invasion, Russia also struck capital Kyiv with drones overnight in the first such attack for almost a month, although city officials reported no casualties.

Moscow suffered a setback with one of its fighter jets losing munitions over Belgorod near the Ukrainian border.

Local authorities reported a blast that injured two people and left a huge crater in the Russian city.

The region of Belgorod has been repeatedly shelled since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine in February 2022.

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