Zelensky in Brussels: We’re defending the EU
The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky received a rapturous reception Thursday in Brussels as he seeks to push European leaders to supply his country with aircraft and long-range weapons to bolster Kyiv’s defenses against a Russian invasion.
Two weeks before the first anniversary of the most ferocious conflict in Europe since the 1940s, Zelensky is making only his second trip abroad since the full-scale invasion.
After two stops on Wednesday in London and Paris to ask Britain, France and Germany to provide his country with modern combat aircraft and long-range missiles, Zelensky went to Brussels to address European leaders and representatives of the European Parliament.
Parliament greeted him with cheers and applause as he arrived to push for the swift inclusion of his country, which it says defends Europe’s eastern borders, into the bosom of the union.
“We’re defending against the most powerful anti-European force in the modern world… We’re defending ourselves, we Ukrainians on the battlefield, with you,” he told European deputies.
Zelensky called on the 27 European Union leaders to support his country’s peace plan with Russia and hold the Russian invaders accountable.
“It’s impossible to live without justice, you do not see the future without justice,” Zelensky told EU leaders in Brussels.
Zelensky called for the creation of a special tribunal to try Russia.
Zelensky said ensuring Russia pays for its crimes “will be an important part of the security foundation for a peaceful Europe”.
The Ukrainian president also called on European Union leaders to agree to impose more sanctions, targeting, among other things, the manufacture of drones and missiles in Russia.
“Ukraine is Europe and the future of your country is in the European Union,” Parliament Speaker Roberta Metsola said in a speech reflecting the warm attitudes of other EU officials.
She added, “Countries should quickly study, as a next step, providing you with the long-range systems and aircraft that you need to protect the freedom that many have taken for granted”.
Earlier, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, wrote in Twitter above a picture of him shaking hands with Zelensky, and next to them the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, “Welcome home, welcome to the European Union”.
Zelensky is supposed to join the 27 leaders of the bloc as a guest at the European Council summit.
Arriving to take part in the talks, Estonian Prime Minister Kaya Kallas said, “It is very important that we speed up military assistance to Ukraine… I think we all looked at the contents of our stocks… But we have to do more”.
The Kremlin responded with its usual warning.
“We see this as an increased involvement of Germany, the United Kingdom and France in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine… The boundary between direct and indirect engagement is gradually fading… We can only regret it,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Peskov added, “The actions of these countries lead to an escalation of tensions… that make this conflict more painful… and these actions won’t change the goals of our country within the framework of the special military operation.”
NATO and powers in the European Union, along with the United States, are the main backers of the defenders of a besieged Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces launched a full-scale invasion.
The British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak offered Zelensky the Challenger tanks that London is working to send to Ukraine, along with German Leopard tanks from several countries, to reinforce Kyiv’s forces.
European leaders will talk about the $67 billion ($72 billion) they have spent on military and financial aid to Kiev, including that spent receiving four million Ukrainian refugees.
But Zelensky has more requests, that the Ukrainian army is facing a renewed Russian offensive, and its leaders want Western fighter jets and long-range missiles to strike deep into Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory.