Tags: volodymyr zelenskyy | europe | eu | ukraine | war

Zelenskyy Set to Press for Jets: 'Victorious Ukraine Will Be Part' of EU

Thursday, 09 February 2023 06:23 AM EST

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a standing ovation from the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday, where he called for more weapons to fend off Russia's invasion and a quick start to talks for his country to join the EU.

"Europe, we are defending ourselves against the biggest anti-European force of the modern world," he said. "We, Ukrainians, on the battlefield, together with you," Zelenskyy said in an address during only his second trip abroad since Russian forces invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago.

He promised a victorious Ukraine would join the EU.

Zelenskyy was attending a summit of the leaders of the 27 European Union countries, a day after meeting British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in London and having dinner with France's Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Olaf Scholz in Paris.

He has made securing advanced Western fighter jets the main theme of his European tour, winning a pledge from Britain to train pilots to fly them.

Josep Borrell, who chairs EU summits, told reporters the EU's 27 national leaders would promise more military support for Ukraine, though he gave no details.

Zelenskyy, whose only other trip abroad since the war began was a surprise visit to Washington in December, has been feted as a war-time hero by Western leaders that have backed Ukraine with weapons, including main battle tanks and advanced rockets.

Western countries have so far balked at sending warplanes or other weapons that could strike deep inside Russia. But the atmosphere surrounding Zelenskyy's trip suggests clear movement towards lifting that taboo.

"You need to win. And now (EU) member states must consider quickly, as the next step, providing long-range systems and the jets that you need to protect your liberty," the head of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, said introducing Zelenskyy's speech.

Although Britain's offer to train pilots to fly NATO jets stopped short of a promise to deliver the planes to Kyiv, Sunak instructed his government to look into whether aircraft were available and said nothing was off the table.

The Kremlin said it would be Ukrainians who suffered if Britain or other Western countries supplied fighter jets to Kyiv, and Moscow would press on with its military campaign in Ukraine regardless of what arms the West sent.

"This is nothing more than the growing involvement of the United Kingdom, Germany and France in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"The line between indirect and direct involvement is gradually disappearing. One can only express regret in this regard, and say that such actions ... lead to an escalation of tension, prolong the conflict and make the conflict more and more painful for Ukraine," he added.

Quest for EU Membership Talks

Ukraine submitted its application to join the EU days after Russia launched its full-scale invasion last year, and now wants formal membership talks to start within months. A Ukrainian official said Kyiv was "absolutely sure the decision to start accession negotiations can be taken this year."

Some EU member states want to give Ukraine the morale boost that would come with opening the talks swiftly. Others are more cautious, stressing that would-be members have hurdles to meet, such as cracking down on corruption, before talks can begin.

Whatever the time-frame, the leaders are still likely to stress their support for Kyiv's eventual membership.

"I am taking a clear message to Brussels: Ukraine belongs to the European family," Germany's Scholz said in Paris.

New sanctions against Russia are also likely to be discussed in Brussels. Scholz said on Wednesday in Berlin that the EU will tighten sanctions against Moscow again near the war's anniversary.

Intense Fighting in the East

On the ground in Ukraine, Russian forces are trying to take full control of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the Ukrainian military command said in its morning report on Thursday.

It said that over past 24 hours, Russian troops maintained offensives in the regions of Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Novopavlivka, and Vuhledar.

Serhiy Haidai, Ukraine's governor of the mostly Russian-occupied eastern Luhansk province, described a major new Russian assault around Kreminna, along a northern stretch of the eastern front.

The Russians "are trying to build on their success by pushing through out defenders' defenses," he told Ukrainian television. "So far they have had no significant success, our defense forces are holding firmly there."

The Wagner mercenary group, which has spearheaded Russia's assault on the Donetsk town of Bakhmut, has stopped recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine, Wagner's founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Thursday.

Wagner has recruited thousands of prisoners with promises of pardons. Kyiv and Western countries say huge numbers of them have been killed in human wave attacks around Bakhmut.

After major Ukrainian gains on the ground in the second half of 2022, Russia has recovered momentum, sending tens of thousands of freshly mobilized troops to the front. They have made incremental progress in winter battles which both sides describe as some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.

Kyiv says it expects Moscow to broaden that offensive with a big push as the Feb. 24 anniversary of the invasion approaches.

Russia launched its "special military operation" last year to combat what it describes as a security threat from Ukraine's ties to the West, and claims to have annexed four Ukrainian provinces. Ukraine and the West say Russia's invasion is an unprovoked land grab.

© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the European Union and its citizens Thursday for the help Ukraine has been receiving to defend itself against the Russian invasion, before joining a summit of the bloc's leaders to ask for more weapons.
volodymyr zelenskyy, europe, eu, ukraine, war
Thursday, 09 February 2023 06:23 AM
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