Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said he had received “strong support” from his allies in a speech at a summit of more than 40 European leaders in Moldova, as he sought to raise the Western pressure to provide weapons and security guarantees for Ukraine.
In what has become a familiar refrain for Mr Zelensky, the president spoke of the need to counter Russian air supremacy using a “sky shield” – a combination of Patriot missile defense systems and F-16 jets supplied by Western nations. . While his allies are talking a good game, Mr Zelensky will know that speed is of the essence – given both the barrage of Russian missiles and drones hitting Ukrainian cities, and the preparations were made for a long-awaited counter-offensive to retake the occupied land. of Russian forces in the east and south of the country.
All the Ukrainian president can do is apply more diplomatic pressure in an effort to keep the decisions. Noting that the F-16 fighter jets he is seeking require approval from Washington, Mr Zelensky said after the meeting that he had “heard strong support from many countries”, adding that “with the help of the United States we will form this coalition.”. Several countries, including the UK and the Netherlands, have said they want to help Ukraine acquire the jets, but pilot training programs may take months to complete, and Western allies have not yet said they will provide the plane.
After a child, her mother and another woman were killed in missile attacks in Kyiv, Mr Zelensky said that “protecting” the skies was important so that the people of Ukraine and “our children” could be protected. He said military aid saves lives and “literally facilitates peace”.
The choice to hold the summit in Moldova, a former Soviet republic of about 2.6 million people, is a message to the Kremlin from the EU and the pro-Western Moldovan government, which received EU candidate status in June. last year at the same time. as in Ukraine. The gathering venue is only 12 miles from the Ukrainian border.
Mr Zelensky said before the meeting began that he would seek a clear invitation for Ukraine to join the alliance at the NATO summit in Vilnius in mid-July. After the day of talks, Mr Zelensky said that if Nato membership is not possible at the moment, he wants a security guarantee for Ukraine in the future, while insisting that the best security guarantee is membership the military alliance and the European Union. He also said that any peace plan proposed in an effort to end the war would not take into account Russia’s concerns.
There are divisions among Nato members over the speed of the escalation in Ukraine, with fears that moving too quickly could bring the alliance closer to direct confrontation with Russia.
The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak – who attended the summit – said: “Ukraine’s rightful place is in Nato.” He added that he was proud of Britain’s record in supporting Ukraine. “We want to make sure that we put security arrangements in place for Ukraine in the long term, so we are sending a very strong signal to Vladimir Putin that we are not going anywhere, we are here to stay, and we will continue to support Ukraine – no. just now, but for years to come,” he said.
French president Emmanuel Macron said Ukraine should be given clear and firm security guarantees at the NATO summit in July. Macron said he is working closely with Germany on the issue and will meet with German chancellor Olaf Scholz next week.
“We need to give a long-term perspective to Ukraine. It is imperative that the Vilnius summit gives these immediate guarantees,” he said.
In Kyiv, the mayor of the city, Vitali Klitschko, said about those killed in the rocket attack, where all 10 missiles were allegedly fired: “Three people, one of them a child, died near the clinic … A The fragments of the rocket fell near the entrance of the clinic four minutes after the air alert was announced. And the people went to the shelter. ” There was some anger from local residents that people could not enter the shelter because it was closed.
“The air alert sounded. My wife took our daughter and they ran to the entrance here,” local resident Yaroslav Ryabchuk told reporters in the Desnyanskyi district. “The entrance is closed, there are probably five to 10 women with boy. Nobody opened for them. They just knocked.”
“They tried to enter the shelter, no one opened for them. My wife died,” he said.
Local media said prosecutors later searched the town’s administration offices as part of an investigation into the deaths.
The attack in the Ukrainian capital was the fourth so far this week, following a total of 17 attacks in May.
In Russia, the country’s defense ministry claims it has repelled several cross-border attacks from Ukraine, near the town of Shebekino.
The Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC), an anti-Putin paramilitary group of Russians who support Ukraine, claims to be fighting inside Russia. “The second phase promised by the RVC commander has begun!” it said on Telegram, referring to a previous attack it claimed in collaboration with another militia, the Freedom of Russia Legion. The legion also claims that it will start another raid, saying: “We, the Freedom of Russia Legion, are now near the border of our homeland, soon we will again invade the territory of Russia.”
The governor of Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said Ukrainian armed forces repeatedly attacked Shebekino with Soviet-designed Grad 122mm rockets, bringing down a dormitory and damaging an administrative building. building. At least nine civilians were injured, he said.
Ukraine denies that its military has been involved in Russian incursions or attacks inside Russian territory.