April 19. 2024. 9:16

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Zelenskyy hosts Western leaders, G7 talks in Kyiv as Russia’s war enters third year

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed Western leaders to Kyiv Saturday (24 February) to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, as Ukrainian forces run low on ammunition and weaponry and foreign aid hangs in the balance.

Looking to dispel concerns the West is getting fatigued by the war, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen came to Kyiv early on Saturday, along with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, Italy’s Giorgia Meloni and Canada’s Justin Trudeau.

The visit came amid Ukraine’s military and financial struggles at the two-year mark of Moscow’s full-scale invasion. The last weeks have seen Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces gaining ground on the battlefield and Ukraine hampered by a shortage of Western-supplied ammunition.

In the morning, Zelenskyy took the quartet of foreign leaders to see Hostomel airport, which had been the site of a ferocious battle in the early days of the invasion, where Russians tried to fly in paratroopers to seize the capital Kyiv a few kilometres away.

“Two years ago, we met enemy troopers here with fire, and two years later, we are meeting our friends, our partners, here,” Zelenskyy said in a speech delivered against a backdrop of wrecked aircraft.

“Who could have imagined exactly two years ago, when the war started, that four foreign leaders would come to this exact airport and would be talking about support and victory of Ukraine?” Ihor Zhovkva, Zelenskyy’s foreign policy advisor, told Euractiv.

“From Hostomel airport to a G7 meeting hosted in Kyiv, it’s symbolic and reassures us of Western support continuing,” Zhovkva added.

G7 pledges sanctions

Meloni called a virtual G7 leaders’ meeting – with Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US, plus the EU – to mark the second anniversary of the Russian invasion.

“As Ukraine enters the third year of this relentless war, its government and its people can count on the G7’s support for as long as it takes,” the G7 leaders’ statement said.

While G7 leaders vowed to “raise the cost” of Russia’s war on Ukraine, they did not publicly state further military. Still, they urged “the approval of additional support to close Ukraine’s remaining budget gap for 2024”.

“We will continue to raise the cost of Russia’s war, degrade Russia’s sources of revenue and impede its efforts to build its war machine,” they said.

Zelenskyy used the meeting to request more support for his embattled military forces.

“You know very well all we need to keep our sky protected, to strengthen our military on the land, and you know all we need to sustain and continue our success in the sea – we are counting on you,” Zelenskyy said.

Security guarantees

Meloni and Trudeau signed security pacts with Zelenskyy during their stay, in line with deals recently agreed with the UK, France, Germany and Denmark worth billions of dollars as part of a broader Western effort to help the country repel Russia’s aggression.

“The message I want to send today to…all the Ukrainian people is that they are not alone,” Meloni said as she signed a 10-year defence pact with Zelenskyy.

Trudeau signed a similar accord and pledged $2.25 billion in financial and military support this year.

“We will stand with Ukraine with whatever it takes, for as long as it takes,” Trudeau said.

Asked about the sequencing of the deals gaining speed, Zhovkva said: “For us, the time matters, so that was that’s why when we were not dragging on with with with the negotiations, but the substance matters.”

“Besides it being instrumental, because you show the concrete amount of money of support for Ukraine for those years, the concrete line of weapons and ammunition [that will be provided], the emergency meetings – it is a deterrence instrument against the aggressor,” Zhovkva said.

According to official calculations, all six countries’ security deals already amount to over $20 billion.

“When aggressor sees more than five top countries, which have agreements concluded with a concrete amount of money – it deters,” he added.

Ukraine is in ‘active negotiations’ with Japan and had several rounds of consultations with the US while opening negotiations with non-G7 countries like Romania, the Netherlands, Sweden and potentially Poland, Zhovkva said.

EU pledges

Speaking to reporters in Kyiv, von der Leyen confirmed the first payment from a €50 billion aid package, worth some €4.5 billion, would be disbursed in mid-March.

She also said the European Commission would submit the negotiating framework on Ukraine’s EU bid in mid-March. “We have started the screening process with a very busy schedule of meetings,” she said.

Read more with Euractiv

Italy, Canada sign bilateral security agreements with Ukraine

Italy, Canada sign bilateral security agreements with Ukraine

Leaders from Canada and Italy signed security agreements with Ukraine on Saturday (24 February) after talks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as Kyiv marked the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion.