Zelensky pleads for air defense help at Berlin aid summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday pleaded for more air defense help to stop Russian attacks as he began an intense week of diplomatic meetings with Western partners.

"Russia's greatest strategic advantage over Ukraine is superiority in the sky. It is missile and bomb terror that helps Russian troops advance on the ground," Zelensky told a reconstruction conference in Berlin.

"Air defense is the answer," he said.

Zelensky, who is also due to address the German parliament, will join the heads of the G7 developed nations later this week in Italy.

He then heads to Switzerland for peace talks over the weekend on the war in Ukraine. Russia has not been invited.

Opening the Berlin conference, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also urged allies to provide more air defense for Ukraine.

"I would like to make a heartfelt plea to everyone here today: please support our initiative to strengthen Ukraine's air defense with everything that is possible," Scholz told delegates.

"The best reconstruction is the one that doesn't have to take place at all," he said.

Germany is leading an effort called Immediate Action on Air Defense for Ukraine, and has contributed three Patriot systems to Kiev.

But seven Patriots are needed for Ukraine to shield its urban centres from the storm of Russian missiles, said Zelensky, who warned that Moscow had already destroyed half of the country's electricity production since winter.

"As a result of the strikes of Russian missiles and drones, nine gigawatts of capacity have already been destroyed. The peak of electricity consumption last winter was 18 gigawatts. So the half now doesn't exist," Zelensky said.

  Air attacks 

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