An emotional Zelensky in Brussels: "We need weapons to survive" | International

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Fighter jets and long-range weapons to defend Ukraine, to fight for democracy and preserve the “European way of life”. She has been the prayer of a visibly tired and emotional Volodymyr Zelensky on his first visit to Brussels since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine a year ago. Now, against the clock, while the Kremlin troops prepare for a new offensive and the Ukrainian forces resist the thrust in Donbas, according to Western intelligence services, the Ukrainian president has once again raised his voice and begged, demanded, demanded more military aid. “We need these weapons to survive,” the kyiv leader urged.

Zelenski, who arrived in Brussels this Thursday after visiting London and Paris (in the French capital he met with the president, Emmanuel Macron, and with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz), has received "positive signals" about future deliveries of arms, but no firm commitment on transfers of fighters and long-range missiles. Nor about a timetable for Ukraine's future accession to the EU. "Lasting peace in Europe will only be a reality when Ukraine wins the war, and when it becomes a member of the EU," Zelensky remarked at a press conference with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and that of the Council, Charles Michel, just a week after he recalled in kyiv, at a historic summit, that there is no turning back on Ukraine's path towards the Union.

The top leaders of the European institutions, who have cheered and applauded Zelensky at every corner, in every corridor, have pledged their support. But at the same time, they have reminded him that decisions on weapons are sovereign for each country. Also that the accession process to the EU has its times. And that these cannot and will not accelerate. Not even for a country threatened by a power like Russia. Europe will be with us until our victory. I heard it from several European leaders about the willingness to provide us with the necessary weapons and support, including planes," Zelenski assured, without specifying which countries are the most open to delivering fighters. "I really want these signals to become concrete sounds, concrete voices, without fear that Russia will listen to this voice," Zelensky remarked, with a gesture of visible fatigue on his second marathon day.

Just a little earlier, the Dutchman Mark Rutte verbalized what for some European leaders is a concern: "You have to make sure that you do not enter into a situation of direct confrontation of article 5 [de defensa mutua entre los aliados en caso de ataque] between Russia and NATO," he said. Discussion over delivering fighter jets has divided the allies, but as a ministerial meeting of NATO countries prepares next week, the issue of aircraft is not yet on the table. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has raised its threats on Ukraine and its warnings to the West, which it has accused of moving closer to direct war with Russia. "We see this as a growing involvement of the UK, France and Germany in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine," Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said. “The line between indirect and direct participation is gradually blurring,” he said.

Zelensky came to Brussels to demand help, but also to thank the EU in person for his support. A European Union that has seamlessly supported Ukraine for almost a year. In a meeting with the twenty-seven heads of state and government, Zelensky also called for more sanctions against Russia, especially against the leadership of the Russian state nuclear company Rosatom, which still provides services to several European countries. "The battle that we are fighting is also in the interest of the rest of the Europeans, so that Russia does not attack the cities with its missiles," said Zelenski, who after speaking in plenary session of the Council, behind closed doors and without motives with the leaders, has held talks with groups of countries, including Spain. President Pedro Sánchez has stressed that Madrid supports the fight against impunity and all efforts to make Russia pay for its crimes and has shown his support for the tenth package of sanctions finalized by the European Commission.

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The strongest public support for Ukraine's demand for arms and planes came from Zelensky at the European Parliament, his first stop on the long Brussels journey. The president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, publicly urged the Twenty-seven to give a positive response to the Ukrainian demands.

"We know the sacrifices that your people are making for Europe and we must honor them not only with words, but with actions," Metsola said in a brief speech before the European Chamber, crowned by the flags of Ukraine and the EU, and in which Zelensky was received with a long applause and ovations. And that happens, the Maltese conservative continued, for listening to kyiv's military demands, which are now largely focused on getting the West to provide them with fighter jets.

“Now, States must consider, quickly, as a next step, providing systems [misiles] long-range aircraft and the planes you need to protect the freedom that too many have taken for granted,” Metsola claimed. "Our response must be proportional to the threat, and the threat is existential," stressed the president of the European Parliament, the first of the EU leaders to visit kyiv, last April. "Ukraine is Europe, and the future of your nation is in the European Union," she added, looking at the Ukrainian president, very moved, especially when she heard the unanimous "Slava Ukraini [viva Ucrania]” with which he was received in plenary.

Although it is most likely that there will be no firm announcements of weapons or planes from the extraordinary meeting in Brussels, European sources who attended the meetings of the heads of state and government with Zelenski ensure that the impact of the latter on the European leaders was and that they will probably take his explanations about the situation in Ukraine very much into account when making new decisions about shipments of war material and other forms of aid to that country. In fact, the sources say, many were the leaders who assured him that they were "willing to do more", especially in terms of combat aircraft. Zelenski himself later assured the press that he had received "positive signals" in this regard.

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