Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the group’s executive commission, arrived in Kyiv via train on Thursday to symbolize support for Ukraine as the first anniversary of the deadly Russian invasion on 24th February approaches. European Union leaders have traveled to Kyiv to hold discussions with the Ukrainian government. Despite their pledge to slap additional sanctions against Moscow, they could not fulfill Ukrainian expectations of quick admission into the EU.
A large delegation of prominent European Union officials arrived in Kyiv on Thursday to demonstrate their support for Ukraine. The officials came with commitments to provide further military, financial, and political aid to the country.#Kyiv #Ukraine #Russia #EuropeanUnion #EU pic.twitter.com/cei5e5k2R2
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Top European Union’s executive branch representatives met with Ukrainian government officials. On Friday, President Volodymyr Zelensky will engage in dialogs with Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the Chairman of the twenty-seven EU national leaders. Although President Zelensky’s call for the EU to slap more stringent sanctions against Russia, the upcoming 10th round of sanctions being planned by the EU in commemoration of the anniversary is unlikely to meet the expectations of the Ukrainian government.
Ukraine-EU Integration to Overcome Challenges and Threats
In a Thursday night video message, President Zelensky stated they reached a significant mutual agreement. Moreover, he emphasized that a robust Ukraine and a strong EU must work together to protect the values they cherish and offer encouragement and energy to their people as they overcome challenges and threats through their continued integration.
This meeting in Kyiv, the first of its kind since the Russian attack, underscores the importance of this shared objective. European Union nations have provided Ukraine with economic, political, and military support throughout the conflict. During a Thursday press conference alongside President Zelensky, Ursula von der Leyen stated that the current sanctions were weakening the Russian economy and setting it back by an entire generation.
Necessary Criteria for Membership
Regardless of the huge support and solidarity from EU nations, the Ukrainian aim of becoming a member of the European Union is unlikely to be fulfilled in the near future. Following Ukrainian recent efforts to curb high-level corruption, EU leaders will likely disappoint Kyiv by emphasizing the need for further anti-corruption measures. According to Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine strongly desires to join the European Union and align itself with the West.
In her Kyiv report, Natacha Butler stated that Ukraine sees its membership in the EU as part of its fight against Russia. The EU has established various prerequisites that Ukraine must fulfill to join the bloc, ranging from ensuring political and economic stability to adhering to specific EU laws. However, the EU is expected to convey that Ukraine still has much work to do before meeting the criteria required for full membership.
Although Ukraine was granted membership candidate status unprecedentedly in June last year, full integration could take several years or even longer. The most recent addition to the EU was Croatia in 2013, a decade after its official request to join the alliance. Poland, Ukraine’s neighbor, had to wait 20 years before becoming a member in 2004.
Europe has been unwavering in its support for Ukraine from the start
During this week’s meetings, EU officials informed Reuters that they would focus on providing Ukraine with additional weaponry and funding, expanding Ukrainian access to the EU market, and helping Ukraine to meet its energy requirements. The officials also indicated that they would discuss imposing further sanctions on Russia, holding Russia’s leaders accountable for the war, and extending the EU’s no-roaming mobile calls zone to Ukraine.
According to the EU, it has allocated almost 60 billion euros ($65bn) in aid for Ukraine, which includes 12 billion euros ($13.2bn) for military support and 18 billion euros ($19.8bn) for the country’s operations this year. In support of Ukraine’s response to Russia’s aggression, EU’s Borrell declared Thursday that they would double the number of Ukrainian troops trained by the EU to 30,000 this year.
He also committed to providing 25 million euros ($27.5m) for clearing mined areas retaken by Ukraine. Borrell tweeted, “Europe has been united with Ukraine from the beginning and will remain with you to emerge victorious and rebuild.” The EU’s highest-ranking officials for migration, agriculture, economy, and justice are also present in Kyiv.
Putin Vows Triumph in Ukraine Conflict, Citing the Battle of Stalingrad
On the eightieth anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi German forces in the Fight of Stalingrad during World War II, President Vladimir Putin of Russia paid homage to fallen Red Army soldiers by laying a wreath at the eternal flame memorial complex in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad). In doing so, he sought to rally his nation and predict a Russian triumph in the ongoing war in Ukraine.
In his speech on Thursday, Putin expressed that the modern manifestation of Nazi ideology is once again threatening the security of Russia and that they have to continually fend off the aggression from the West as a collective. He and other Russian leaders often depict Ukraine as a hub of neo-Nazi ideologies, even though Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has a Jewish heritage.
In addition, Putin criticized Germany for providing weaponry to Kyiv and proclaimed his willingness to use all of Russia’s weapons, including nuclear arms. He exclaimed in disbelief, “Can you believe it? They threaten us again with German Leopard tanks painted crosses on their armor.”
Putin criticized Germany for its involvement in arming Ukraine and stated that Russia is ready to utilize its entire arsenal, including nuclear weapons, if necessary. He expressed disbelief at the notion of German Leopard tanks, with crosses designed on their armor, being used against Russia on Ukrainian soil and pointed to Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera as evidence of the “Hitler’s followers” fighting against Russia. Germany, which had been deliberating for months about sending tanks to Ukraine, plans to do so in late March or early days of April as part of a coalition of countries providing the units to Kyiv.