In a strong signal of support Regarding the solidity of the bloc’s position, the President of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, began his biannual tenure of the European Union with a trip to Kiev to meet with the Ukrainian president Volodimir Zelenski, who has been resisting the Russian invasion for 16 months.
The trip, on the first day of the European administration of the socialist leader, is a warning also for its overseas allies in Latin America, particularly Brazil, which maintains a line of distance with Ukraine and demands that military aid not be granted and that Russia not be sanctioned. Sanchez, instead, announced that he will deliver another four Leopard tanks to kyiv.
Zelenski, who hopes to accelerate his country’s accession to the bloc of 27, highlighted Sanchez’s gesture, but regretted the delay of some Western powers in delivering the military material that his army needs to reinforce its counteroffensive in the east and south.
“My presence here on the first day of the semester presidency [de la UE] demonstrates a clear and unequivocal political commitment on the part of the community institutions” on the accession of Ukraine, declared Sanchez together with Zelenski.
“It is extremely symbolic that this visit takes place on the first day of the Spanish presidency of the EU,” Zelenski considered.
Ukraine received the EU candidate status a year ago and expects to begin formal negotiations on the next steps this year.
“Spain reiterates its support for Ukraine’s candidacy to join the EU, which will be among the priorities of its presidency,” says the joint statement of both leaders. Zelensky also called for NATO to extend at its summit this month in Vilnius (the Lithuanian cital) an invitation for Ukraine to join the Western defense alliance “after the war”.
The joint declaration stresses that “Spain supports the strengthening of NATO collaboration with Ukraine, also through the creation of a NATO-Ukraine Council”.
Sanchez announced his trip to kyiv at an EU summit on Thursday, assuring that his objective was to demonstrate the “unwavering support” of the EU to Ukraine.
More combat aircraft and military training
Zelensky took advantage of the meeting to raise the urgency for the training of Ukrainian pilots in handling combat aircraft, a crucial weon to reverse the invasion and sustain the initiative of the army.
“Do you have any idea of the date when Ukraine will be able to obtain the F-16s?”, declared the Ukrainian president together with Sanchez. “There is no schedule for the training missions. I think some partners are dragging their feet,” he added.
These reproaches come after weeks of a counteroffensive with limited progress to try to recover territories conquered by Russian troops since the start of the invasion in February 2022.
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny said on Friday in an interview with The Washington Post that counteroffensive plans have been hampered by the lack of proper weonsfrom modern fighter jets to artillery ammunition.
“It bothers me,” he said, that some Western powers are upset by slow progress, without delivering promised F-16 fighters to counter Russian air superiority.
“I don’t need 120 planes. I’m not going to threaten everyone. A very limited number would suffice,” he stressed. “But they are necessary. Because there is no other way. The enemy is using a different generation of aircraft,” he added.
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said Friday that Washington and its allies are working to supply Ukraine.
“We are giving them as much help as humanly possible,” Milley said, explaining that the United States is still in talks with Ukraine to provide F-16s and ATACMS-type precision missiles. However, she acknowledged that there is impatience with the rhythm of the counteroffensive. “Sure, it’s a little slow, but that’s part of the nature of war,” she said.
A US official confirmed to the AFP agency this weekend that CIA director William Burns recently traveled to Ukraine, where he met with intelligence services and President Zelensky.
During his trip, Burns reaffirmed “the United States’ commitment to intelligence sharing to help Ukraine defend against Russian aggression,” the US official said.