BRUSSELS, June 29 (Reuters) – European Union leaders declared on Thursday they would make long-term commitments to bolster Ukraine’s security as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged them to start work on a new round of sanctions against Russia.
At a summit in Brussels, the leaders restated their condemnation of Russia’s war against Ukraine and said the EU and its member countries “stand ready” to contribute to commitments that would help Ukraine defend itself in the long term.
In a text summarising the conclusions of the summit, the leaders said they would swiftly consider the form these commitments would take.
Josep Borrell, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, suggested they could build on existing EU support, such as the European Peace Facility fund that has financed billions of euros in arms for Ukraine and a training mission for Ukrainian troops.
“The military support to Ukraine has to (be for the) long haul,” Borrell told reporters, suggesting the EU could establish a Ukrainian Defence Fund, modelled on the Peace Facility.
“The training has to continue, the modernisation of the army has to continue. Ukraine needs our commitment to continue ensuring their security during the war and after the war,” he added.
France – a champion of a greater security and defence role for the European Union – proposed the text, diplomats said.
But it was amended to accommodate concerns from militarily neutral countries and from staunch supporters of transatlantic cooperation such as the Baltic states, who see European security as mainly a matter for NATO, with a strong U.S. role.
The final text said the EU would contribute “together with partners” and “in full respect of the security and defence policy of certain Member States”.
The EU’s statement feeds into a discussion among NATO members and military powers such as the United States, Britain, France and Germany over measures to assure Ukraine that the West is committed to enhancing its security over the long term.
Ukraine has argued the best way to assure its own security and that of Europe is for it to join NATO. But Kyiv has acknowledged that is not possible during the war and NATO allies are divided over how quickly it could happen afterwards.
Addressing the EU leaders via video link, Zelenskiy thanked them for an 11th package of sanctions against Russia, which was approved earlier this month and aimed at stopping other countries and companies from circumventing existing measures.
“It is important not to stop imposing sanctions,” he said, according to the text of his speech posted on the Ukrainian president’s website.
“The fewer pauses there are, the less Russia will adapt to the pressure on it and the less it will think of ways to circumvent the sanctions,” he said.
Zelenskiy also alluded to last weekend’s abortive mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group in Russia.
“The weaker Russia is, and the more its bosses fear mutinies and uprisings, the more they will fear to irritate us. Russia’s weakness will make it safe for others, and its defeat will solve the problem of this war,” he said.
Source : Reuters