Ukraine’s Zelensky makes emotional appeal for EU membership

- Advertisement -

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said “a Ukraine that is winning” its war with Russia should be a member of the European Union, arguing the bloc would not be complete without it.

Mr Zelensky made his appeal during an emotional day at the EU’s headquarters in Brussels as he wrapped up a rare, two-day trip outside Ukraine to seek more weapons from the West to repel the full-scale invasion that Moscow has been waging for nearly a year.

As he spoke on Thursday, a new offensive by Russia in eastern Ukraine was under way.

Mr Zelensky, who also visited the UK and France and Wednesday, received rapturous applause and cheers from the European Parliament and a summit of the 27 EU leaders, insisting in his speech that the fight with Russia was one for the freedom of all of Europe.

“A Ukraine that is winning is going to be member of the European Union,” Mr Zelensky said, building his appeal around the common destiny that Ukraine and the bloc face in confronting Russia.

“Europe will always be, and remain Europe as long as we… take care of the European way of life,” he said.

He added that membership talks should start later this year, an ambitious request, considering the huge task ahead.

“There is no rigid timeline,” warned EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

He held up an EU flag after his address and the entire legislature stood in sombre silence as the Ukrainian national anthem and the European anthem Ode To Joy were played in succession.

Before his speech, European Parliament president Roberta Metsola said allies should consider “quickly, as a next step, providing long-range systems” and fighter jets to Ukraine.

The response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine “must be proportional to the threat, and the threat is existential”, she said.

Ms Metsola also told Mr Zelensky that “we have your back”, adding: “We were with you then, we are with you now, we will be with you for as long as it takes.”

A draft of the summit’s conclusions seen by the Associated Press said “the European Union will stand by Ukraine with steadfast support for as long as it takes”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the bloc will send Mr Zelensky “this signal of unity and solidarity, and can show that we will continue our support for Ukraine in defending its independence and integrity”.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, front centre right, shakes hands with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades as they pose with other European Union leaders during a group photo at an EU summit in Brussels
Volodymyr Zelensky, front centre right, shakes hands with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades as they pose with other EU leaders in Brussels (Virginia Mayo/AP)

The Kremlin’s forces “have regained the initiative in Ukraine and have begun their next major offensive” in the eastern Luhansk region, most of which is occupied by Russia, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest assessment.

“Russian forces are gradually beginning an offensive, but its success is not inherent or predetermined,” it added.

Mr Zelensky used the dais of the European Parliament hoping to match his speech to Britain’s legislature when he thanked the nation for its unrelenting support.

That same support has come from the EU. The bloc and its member states have already backed Kyiv with about 50 billion euros in aid, provided military hardware and imposed nine packages of sanctions on the Kremlin.

The EU is in the midst of brokering a new sanctions package worth about 10 billion euros before the war’s anniversary. And there is still plenty of scope for exporting more military hardware to Ukraine as a Russian spring offensive is expected.

European Parliament’s members applaud Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, centre right front
European Parliament’s members applaud Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, centre right front (Olivier Matthys/AP)

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by Mr Putin, visited a Siberian arms factory on Thursday and declared that Russia will respond to the Western aid by churning out thousands of tanks.

“Our enemy was begging for aircraft, missiles and tanks on a trip abroad,” Mr Medvedev said during a visit to the factory in Omsk. “We will naturally increase the output of various types of weapons and military equipment, including modern tanks. We are talking about production and modernisation of thousands of tanks.”

Mr Zelensky’s visit to EU headquarters should add to the goodwill to help Ukraine become part of the bloc. Ukraine wants membership in a matter of years, while in practice it can take decades to join.

Fighting in Ukraine intensified on Thursday, with Kyiv’s military intelligence agency saying Russian forces have launched an offensive in the the partially occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with the aim to grab full control of the entire industrial region, known as the Donbas.

Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces there since 2014.

Volodymyr Zelensky with European Parliament president Roberta Metsola
Volodymyr Zelensky with European Parliament president Roberta Metsola (Daina Le Lardice, European Parliament via AP)

In Donetsk, the front line expanded significantly over the previous day, with fierce battles taking place as Moscow’s forces closed in on key Ukrainian-held towns, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

“The intensity of the shelling has increased dramatically and we are seeing a significant intensification of activity by the Russian army immediately in the south, centre and north of the region,” Mr Kyrylenko said. “Russia is again actively using combat aircraft to shell our cities and villages.”

Russian forces also stepped up attacks in the neighbouring province of Luhansk, launching “a broad offensive”, regional governor Serhii Haidai said.

In the north-eastern province of Kharkiv, 23 cities and villages came under shelling. In the border city of Vovchansk, shelling damaged about 10 apartment buildings.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.