Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with NATO alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg ahead of its first Defense Industries Forum while Moscow announced new military spending.
“Ukraine is now closer to NATO than ever before,” Stoltenberg said at a joint press conference with Zelensky on Thursday, AFP reported.
The unannounced visit came ahead of Kyiv’s first Defense Industries Forum, where Ukrainian officials were set to meet representatives from more than 165 companies and 26 countries, European Truth reported.
During his meeting with Stoltenberg, Zelensky urged NATO to buttress his country's air defense systems ahead of expected Russian strikes on Ukraine's energy grid.
“The Secretary General agreed to undertake efforts to help and to support us in this matter, to mobilize states of the alliance,” Zelensky said at the press conference.
The meeting came in the wake of a massive overnight drone attack by Russia, which launched 39 drones at Ukraine, 31 of which Kyiv intercepted, a military spokesperson said.
On the ground, Ukraine has gradually been clawing back territory from Russian occupation forces, most recently liberating the strategically important villages of Klishchiivka and Andriivka, near Bakhmut.
UK Defense Minister Grant Shapps and French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu were also in Kyiv Thursday.
Meanwhile, while Western allies were meeting in Kyiv, the Kremlin announced that a massive increase in military spending planned for next year will be “absolutely necessary,” citing what it said was a “hybrid war unleashed against Russia,” AFP reported.
“It's obvious that such an increase is necessary, absolutely necessary because we are in a state of hybrid war and we are continuing the special military operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, referring to Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24, 2022.
Russia is set to hike military spending by almost 70 percent in 2024, a finance ministry document published Thursday showed.
The document said military spending was set to jump by over 68 percent year-on-year to almost 10.8 trillion rubles ($111.15 billion), totaling around 6 percent of GDP – more than spending allocated for social policy.
Russia’s military spending is set to total around three times more than education, environmental protection and healthcare spending combined in 2024, figures calculated by AFP showed.
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter