With tanks on the way, Ukraine's defence minister sets his sights on fighter jets

Oleksii Reznikov says his country's next hope is to secure military aircraft that could be a "game changer" in its fight against Russia.

Canada among several countries to pledge shipments of main battle tanks

A man wearing glasses and backed by flags rests his head on his chin.
Ukrainian Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov attends a meeting of the 'Ukraine Defence Contact Group' at Ramstein Air Base in Ramstein, Germany, on Jan. 20. (Michael Probst/The Associated Press)

Ukraine's defence minister says that with main battle tanks supplied by allies now on the way, his country's next hope is to secure military aircraft that could be a "game changer" in its fight against Russia.

In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live airing Sunday, Oleksii Reznikov said he had written a "wish list to Santa" and that on the list "remains jet fighters, fighter jets, aircraft and probably rockets ... long-hand options to hit the Russians' fuel depots, ammunition depots and their commanders."

Reznikov told CBC News chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton that he hoped that the new two weeks of discussions with European and North American allies over military aircraft would lead to commitments.

He noted that as the war has developed, military equipment that was once denied to Ukraine has started to flow, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, as well as long-range artillery and air defence systems.

WATCH | Ukraine's defence minister on new arms supply commitments from allies: 

Ukraine's defence minister appreciates Canada's contributions

2 months ago
Duration 10:23
In an exclusive interview with Rosemary Barton Live, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov lauds Canada's military contributions in the war against Russia and says he is optimistic fighter jets from allies will be next on his wish list for Kyiv.

"For me, everything that's impossible today [will be] possible tomorrow," he said.

Speaking earlier this week, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius "ruled out" sending fighter jets to Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine is grinding toward its one-year mark. Since Russia first launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, Ukraine has beat back major attacks and regained substantial lost territory, but significant parts of the country's south and east remain under occupation, and fighting is still intense.

Reznikov said his generals were telling him the military situation in the east was "difficult but under control."

Negotiations within the bloc of countries supporting Ukraine have centred in recent weeks on the question of whether to supply the beleaguered country with modern battle tanks. Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States all promised vehicles, and Germany this week agreed to do the same under intense pressure.

A day later, Canada announced it would be sending four of its own tanks, Leopard 2s, to Ukraine.

  • What questions do you have about Russia's invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to ask@cbc.ca
Two tanks carrying soldiers are shown side by side.
A Canadian Forces Leopard 2A4 tank is shown on the firing range at CFB Gagetown, in Oromocto, N.B., in 2012. (David Smith/The Canadian Press)

"These tanks will allow Ukraine to liberate even more of its territory and defend its people from Russia's brutal invasion. These four tanks are combat-ready and will be deployed over the coming weeks," Defence Minister Anita Anand said on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, Conservative defence critic James Bezan said his party was supportive of the government's aid to Ukraine but that the tank announcement was insufficient.

"It's tokenism ... it just shows the vast state of disrepair our Canadian Armed Forces have been in," he said.

Reznikov said the promises of tanks are "not the end of the story, it's just the start of the story."

He acknowledged that it would take time to receive the tanks and train crews to use them, but he hoped they would be ready for a spring campaign, setting a target for March.

Russia has condemned the increasing supply of weapons being sent to Ukraine as an escalation in the conflict, while it continues to mobilize and train hundreds of thousands of fresh troops.

Concerns over wartime profiteering

Along with military supplies, allies have poured billions of dollars into keeping Ukraine's economy afloat in the form of grants and loans. The Ukrainian economy contracted by roughly 30 per cent in 2022, its economy minister said.

"One of the amazing things in Ukraine is that everything continues to functions: electricity, internet, banks," said Anders Aslund, a former economic adviser to the country.

"The government has functioned surprisingly well ... but of course when 30 per cent of the economy is disappearing because of the war, everyone is becoming much poorer," he said.

WATCH | Former adviser discusses state of Ukrainian economy: 

How has the war impacted Ukraine's and Russia's economies?

2 months ago
Duration 7:31
Rosemary Barton Live speaks to Anders Aslund, a former economic adviser to Ukraine, about the war’s impact on the economies of Ukraine and Russia, as well as tanks and whether Russian President Vladimir Putin can hold on to power.

Sanctions, meanwhile, amounted to a significant but not decisive economic toll on Russia, Aslund said.

Reznikov, meanwhile, has faced criticism domestically due to concerns that officials in the Defence Ministry have been profiting from contracts related to the war. Ukraine's deputy defence minister resigned on Tuesday, and its deputy infrastructure minister was firedin a separate scandal.

Reznikov has said he did not know about the contract, which allegedly purchased rations at inflated prices, and that there had been no impact on the troops.

But he acknowledged the country needed to strike a balance between wartime secrecy and that Ukraine should move toward a more transparent system and "European standard" of anti-corruption practices, in advance of the end of the war. Aslund argued that the fact journalists brought the issue to light and that the government responded quickly represented positive signs for Ukrainian civil society.

On the question of when the war might end, Reznikov said he remained an optimist.

"I hope that this year becomes a year of victory," he said, but acknowledged there was much to do before then.

"We would like to [have victory] as soon as possible. Ukrainian people want that. But we will see."


Christian Paas-Lang covers federal politics for CBC News in Ottawa as an associate producer with The House and a digital writer with CBC Politics. You can reach him at christian.paas-lang@cbc.ca.

With files from Rosemary Barton, Arielle Piat-Sauvé and Reuters

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