By Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS -Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will ask a summit of European Union leaders on Thursday for more arms to fight Russia and powering ahead with Kyiv’s bid to join the EU, a senior Ukrainian official said on Wednesday.
Zelenskiy visited Britain on Wednesday, winning a pledge to train Ukrainian pilots on advanced NATO fighter jets, and was expected in the European Union hub Brussels on Thursday for talks among the 27 national leaders of the bloc.
“My president travels to get results,” said the Ukrainian official. “He is on a foreign trip today. First and foremost, the main result is – weapons… We need the support of the European Council to speed up arms deliveries to Ukraine.”
The official, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said Kyiv needed long-range artillery and multiple types of ammunition, as well as battle tanks and fighter jets.
Zelenskiy is expected to address the European Parliament on Thursday morning and then join the EU leaders, part of his second foreign trip since Russia invaded a year ago this month.
While he has dialled in to every EU summit since, it would be the first time he had sat in one room with all the national leaders of the bloc since Feb. 24, 2022.
Later on Wednesday, he was due in Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“We badly need as of now, as of yesterday, long-range artillery, all types of artillery ammunition. Ammunition, ammunition, ammunition, we use plenty of ammunition every day,” the Ukrainian official said.
“Battle tanks – the decision has been taken by several member states, but we have no tanks for now. This needs to be speeded up. We need fighter jets,” the official said.
The 27 EU leaders meet for what is called a European Council summit on Thursday to discuss more sanctions against Russia for waging the war on Ukraine, ways to hold Moscow accountable for attacking its neighbour, as well as whether and how to use Russian assets frozen in Europe to finance rebuilding Ukraine.
“We need the general support of the European Council to speed up arms delivery to Ukraine this month, next month. They will be crucial as Russia is planning an offensive… If we had all this already, we could be starting a counteroffensive,” the official said.
Zelenskiy will also ask EU leaders to move quickly on his country’s bid to join the Western bloc, as well as for support for Kyiv’s peace plan, according to the official.
“We are absolutely sure the decision to start accession negotiations can be taken this year,” said the official.
EU countries, however, have warned there is no fast-track to accession and told Ukraine it must step up its fight against corruption, among other reforms, stressing that becoming a member country is a complex process that takes years.
Beyond meeting multiple legal and economic criteria, Ukraine would also need to overcome political reluctance in EU founding states including France and the Netherlands, reluctant to bring in a large eastern country, a move that would change the balance of power and financial flows in what now is a 27-nation bloc.
The Ukrainian official said Kyiv was expecting a new Russian offensive soon.
“When the offensive starts, my president won’t be able to travel in March. So it’s very important that we get results now,” said the official, stressing Ukraine needed the arms now.
“We will never use these systems to capture a part of the territory of another country, we don’t want a part of Russia. But we will fight for our territory.”