VILNIUS – Civilians in Ukraine should not be paying with their lives for their country to receive Western weapons, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has said.
In an interview with CNN, Landsbergis noted that the West is inclined to send weapons to Ukraine only after "the most horrible events", such as Russia's attacks on Kyiv, when it was decided to send Stinger and Javelin anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, and the massacres in Bucha and Irpin, when it was decided to send HIMARS rocket artillery systems.
The debate about sending Western tanks to Ukraine "is finally getting some fuel" after dozens of civilian casualties in Dnipro, according to Landsbergis.
"I don't think that's a right attitude. Honestly, I don't think that Ukrainian civilians should be paying with their lives in order to get the weapons that they need," the minister told CNN.
"I think we need to be way more serious about how we see this war ending. It has to end in Ukraine by Ukrainians winning back the territories that are now under Russian occupation. For that, most of all, they need weaponry, and all kinds of weaponry," he said.
First of all, Ukraine needs battle tanks, which Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom have, and long-range missiles, which would help to push Russian forces out of its occupied territories, according to Landsbergis.
As the discussion in the West on how the war should end continues, some countries support the idea of a frozen conflict, the minister said.
"There are those who believe that maybe a frozen conflict would be suited better, which I completely disagree with. But this notion, this thinking is, I think, the main obstacle to some countries to send the weapons that Ukrainians need," he said.
"It took a very long time, almost a year now, to get to the point where we're actually discussing sending tanks, and, honestly, I would not be extremely surprised if the tank debate were productive in the sense that Ukrainians would get their hands on the tanks."
According to Landsbergis, it is crucial that all countries supporting Ukraine agree on the key principle that "Ukraine needs to win the war, needs to get Russia out of its territories if we want the European continent to be safe again and if we want the global security order to get back to what it was before".
"And for that, Russia needs to lose. And for that, we have to understand that Ukrainians are actually still fighting against a superior force. Therefore, there is no way we can leave them with (...) the weapons that they currently have."
Landsbergis criticized Germany for its reluctance to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine and for not giving other European countries the opportunity to do so.
"A lot of countries have already procured German-made tanks. Among those are Finland and some other Nordic countries, and South European countries. And they are willing to send the tanks to Ukraine. So far, they have not got the green light from Berlin," the minister said.
"And I truly, truly hope that this might change as well. And that would reduce the pressure on Germany itself, meaning that maybe they cannot send all the tanks that Ukraine needs currently, but with partners that have German tanks it would be a substantial help to Ukraine," he added.
Some 40 people, including three children, were killed and at least 75 others, including 14 children, were wounded in Saturday's missile strike on an apartment building in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro. The attack was condemned by the West.
Germany, which took a stance against contributing any heavy weapons to Ukraine at the start of the war, has in recent months supplied the country with howitzers, Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft systems and the first of four IRIS-T air defense systems, and earlier this month agreed to send 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles and a Patriot air defense system.
However, Berlin is under increasing pressure to take a major step forward and agree to supply Kyiv with modern Leopard 2 battle tanks, including those purchased by other countries.