Ukrainian troops seek weapons as world powers meet

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STORY: Ukrainian soldiers fought to hold off a Russian attack on the small eastern city of Bakhmut Friday, as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appealed to senior Western leaders meeting in Munich, asking them to ramp up military aid to Ukraine.

ZELENSKIY: "Ukraine’s key message at the Munich Security Conference is an obvious one – we have to do everything so we bring about the collapse of Russian aggression before year end. This is possible, this is necessary but this is possible if Ukraine receives the weaponry needed for this. That is why our diplomatic marathon is ongoing without let up."

Speaking via video link to the conference, Zelenskiy said it was "obvious" Ukraine would not be the last stop of President Vladimir Putin's invasion, and that it was vital the West did not delay arms deliveries to help repel Russian forces, saying the Kremlin was already thinking of ways to "strangle" Ukraine's neighbor - the former Soviet republic of Moldova.

The appeal won immediate support from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Western leaders have promised battle tanks and talks are under way about securing longer-range missiles, but Kyiv's allies remain hesitant about providing fighter jets.

Ukrainian soldiers on the battlefield echoed Zelenskiy's plea for arms.

"Give us more military equipment, more weapons, and we will deal with the Russian occupier, we will destroy them."

Nearly one year into the invasion, Putin's troops are intensifying assaults in the east, narrowing its focus on Bakhmut, where Russia's Wagner mercenary group is attacking.

But White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Friday said Wagner mercenaries were taking heavy losses.

"They're treating their recruits, largely convicts, basically as cannon fodder, throwing them into a literal meat grinder here, inhumane ways without a second thought. And while fighting in Ukraine, we estimate now that Wagner has suffered more than 30,000 casualties, including approximately 9000 killed in action."

Europe's worst conflict since World War Two has killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions from their homes and has pummeled the global economy, and has solidified Putin's role as a pariah in the West.

Russian government officials were not invited to this year's Munich Security Conference.