April 14. 2024. 6:45

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Zelenskyy’s presence at EU summit remains unconfirmed


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been invited to take part in a summit of European Union leaders, the EU said on Monday (6 February), amid reports he could be in Brussels as soon as this week.

EU leaders meet on Thursday and possibly also on Friday for a special summit in which they will discuss migration, Ukraine and the economy.

European Council President Charles Michel has extended an “open invitation” to Zelenskyy to visit Brussels, Michel’s spokesman Barend Leyts clarified. He later tweeted that Michel invited Zelenskyy “to participate in person in a future summit”.

Leyts did not say when Zelenskiy might take up the invitation and specified that no further information would be provided “for security reasons”.

Earlier on Monday, multiple media outlets reported that Zelenskyy could attend the summit and may also address a session of the European Parliament.

A source at the European parliament said there was the “likelihood of an extraordinary Plenary Session on Thursday 9 February with the presence of Volodymyr Zelenskyy”.

Two separate parliamentary sources confirmed the invite on condition of anonymity.

EU officials had declined to comment on those reports. Some noted that if news of such a visit leaked in advance, it could pose a greater security risk for Ukraine’s wartime leader and lessen the chances of him going ahead with the trip.

Zelenskyy’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the reports.

If Zelenskyy does visit Brussels this week, it would be only the second foreign trip he has taken since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last 24 February.

In December, Zelenskyy visited Washington to meet President Joe Biden and address the US Congress.

Zelenskyy has addressed EU summits via video link, his most memorable participation being that of last 25 February, a day after Russia invaded his country. Reportedly, he then addressed leaders in a way similar to a final goodbye.

Bulgaria’s Petkov: Zelenskiy may not be alive in the next 48 hours

European Union leaders reeled in shock following the latest video call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who addressed them in a way similar to a final goodbye, according to Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov.

At home, Zelenskyy is facing a Russian offensive while he is struggling with personnel changes following reported corruption.

The war is reaching a pivotal point as its first anniversary approaches, with Ukraine no longer making gains as it did in the second half of 2022 and Russia pushing forward with hundreds of thousands of mobilised reserve troops.

In his Monday evening address, Zelenskyy said he wanted to combine military and managerial experience in local and central government but did not directly address confusion about whether his defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, would be replaced.

Ukraine to replace defence minister in wartime reshuffle

Ukraine is set to replace Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov with the chief of its military spy agency, a close ally of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday (5 February), in a reshuffle at the forefront of Ukraine’s war campaign.

On Sunday, David Arakhamia, head of Zelenskiy’s parliamentary bloc, said Reznikov would be transferred to another ministerial job, but on Monday he wrote that “there will be no personnel changes in the defence sector this week.”

Zelenskyy says he needs to show that Ukraine was a safe steward of billions of dollars of Western military and other aid, and his government is engaged in the biggest political and administrative shake-up since Russia’s invasion nearly a year ago.

“In a number of regions, particularly those on the border or on the front line, we will appoint leaders with military experience. Those who can show themselves to be the most effective in defending against existing threats,” he said.

New Russian offensive

Reznikov told Ukrainska Pravda on the weekend that intelligence suggested any new Russian offensive would likely come from the east or south.

“Their dream is to expand the land corridor to Crimea in order to continue supplies. Therefore, of course, the key risks are: the east, the south, and after that the north,” he said.

Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.

Ukrainian defence analyst Oleksandr Kovalenko said a new Russian offensive could come from one of four directions; the eastern Luhansk region, the Donetsk region, the Zaporizhzhia region and the city and port of Mariupol.

“Things are more serious in Donetsk region, particularly around Bakhmut and Avdiivka. And the Russians will be boosting their contingents there as well as equipment and paratroops,” Kovalenko, from the “Information Resistance group” think tanks, told Ukrainian radio NV.

For months Russia’s main target in eastern Ukraine has been Bakhmut, where its state media said the Wagner mercenary group had gained a foothold. Ukraine said on Monday evening that Russian forces had trained tank, mortar and artillery fire there in the past 24 hours.

Kovalenko said Mariupol, captured by Russian forces last May, could be used by the Russians to bring in troops and equipment for a new offensive.

“It could serve as a transport hub for the Russian occupation forces,” he said.

Kovalenko said Ukraine’s counter-offensive would not happen any time soon and Ukrainian forces would be assuming a defensive position, particularly in Donetsk.

“It may be an active defence, but a defensive position nonetheless. The idea will remain to block any Russian advance,” he said.

“Things could change more quickly in other sectors. But this situation could go on for two to two-and-a-half months – that is the time required for providing the tanks for brigades, training and getting everything outfitted.”