EU officials pledge solidarity with Kyiv, Zelenskiy says speed up sanctions
The EU provides more military, financial, political support. Kiev’s hopes for quick EU entry will be dashed Zelenskiy pushes for more sanctions on Russia
KYIV, Feb 2 (Reuters) – Ukraine urged the European Union on Thursday to impose more sanctions on Moscow after some of the bloc’s top officials visited Kiev in a show of solidarity that did not offer a fast track to membership amid Russia’s occupation .
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen led a delegation of more than a dozen officials who pledged military, financial and political aid ahead of the February 24 first anniversary of the invasion.
“Europe has stood by Ukraine since day one because we know that the future of our continent is being written here… this is a struggle of democracies against authoritarian regimes,” von der Leyen told a news conference in Kiev.
She had a first meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy shortly after her arrival and the two leaders will hold a summit on Friday with Charles Michel, head of the EU’s 27 national leaders.
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The West stepped up promises to provide more weapons to Ukraine in January. But by not wanting to admit a country at war, the EU will dash Ukraine’s hopes of fast-track membership, underscoring the need for more anti-corruption measures.
“Today, we are proposing Ukraine to join major European programs – this will give Ukraine benefits close to those of membership in many areas,” von der Leyen said, without committing to any date.
Zelenskiy, who greeted von der Leyen with a kiss on the cheek and said they had discussed a 10th package of EU sanctions against Russia.
“We can see that the pace of Europe’s sanctions has slowed down a bit while the terrorist state, on the contrary, is increasing its pace of adaptation to sanctions,” he said, standing next to von der Leyen.
However, the EU announced a doubling of the number of Ukrainian troops to be trained by the EU to 30,000 this year and pledged 25 million euros ($27.50 million) for demining areas reclaimed by Ukraine.
‘NOT THERE YET’
The EU’s top foreign policy, migration, agriculture, economy and justice officials were also in the Ukrainian capital.
EU officials said the talks included discussing more arms and money for Ukraine, as well as more access for Ukrainian products to the EU market, helping Kiev cover energy needs, sanctions against Russia, the prosecution of to the Russian leadership for the fight and expansion of a mobile EU without roaming. area calls in Ukraine.
The wealthy bloc has already earmarked almost €60 billion in aid for Ukraine, including nearly €12 billion in military support and €18 billion to help run the country this year, but refuses to offer a fast track to membership while Ukraine is in war.
“Some may want to speculate about the end game, but the simple truth is that we are not there yet,” said an EU official.
EU officials have listed numerous requirements for entry, from political and economic stability to the passage of various EU laws.
The EU will underline its commitment to supporting Ukraine’s “further European integration” after it was granted candidate status last June and will decide on further steps once all conditions are “fully met”, according to a draft joint statement seen by Reuters.
Kiev has cracked down on high-level corruption in recent days, but the EU says Ukraine must build a credible track record over time to shed its reputation for endemic corruption.
Ukraine’s calls for long-range missiles or fighter jets are expected to go unanswered by the EU this week, officials say, and it seems unlikely that new EU sanctions on Russia will meet expectations in Ukraine.
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Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Andrew Gray in Brussels and by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Writing by Tom Balmforth, editing by Timothy Heritage
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