Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeated calls on Ukraine’s Western allies for heavy arms and urged the European Union (EU) to grant membership to his country.
Since the onset of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, the United States and its European allies have been sending a flood of advanced weapons into Ukraine to help its military fend off Russian forces.
Ukraine hopes to outmaneuver the Russians by obtaining more advanced weapons. Kiev heavily relies on its Western allies to regain the Donbass, composed of the two breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where the Russian military has focused its attention on. Pro-Russia forces had held parts of Luhansk and Donetsk regions even before the Russian onslaught began.
In a video address released early Thursday, Zelensky once again urged his country’s Western allies to speed up the shipment of heavy weapons to match Russia on the battlefield.
“We must free our land and achieve victory, but more quickly, a lot more quickly,” the Ukrainian president said.
“There were massive air and artillery strikes in the Donbass. The occupier’s goal here is unchanged, they want to destroy the entire Donbass step-by-step,” Zelensky said, adding, “This is why we again and again emphasize the acceleration of arm deliveries to Ukraine. What is quickly needed is parity on the battlefield in order to halt this diabolical armada and push it beyond Ukraine’s borders.”
Russia, which began its operations with a declared goal of demilitarizing and “de-Nazifying” Ukraine, has for the time being focused most of its firepower on fully capturing the major city of Severodonetsk, in Ukraine’s east, while simultaneously trying to cement its control over southern territory.
As Ukrainian forces begin withdrawing from the outskirts of Severodonetsk and the city inches closer to collapse, Moscow has also doubled down on its attacks on Ukraine’s second-biggest city of Kharkiv, situated near the Russian border.
Zelensky reiterates call for EU membership
On Wednesday, Zelensky reiterated his call on EU leaders to allow Ukraine into the bloc, during a speech he virtually delivered to the participants of the Embrace Ukraine - #StrivingTogether charity telethon, which took place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
“We are just days away from the European Union’s historic decision on Ukraine. And I am sure that none of us – none of you – have any doubt that Ukraine should get a positive decision. We deserve it! And we deserve it not only for our bravery and our fight for freedom,” he said.
Zelensky said he had spoken to 11 EU leaders on Wednesday about Ukraine’s candidacy and would make more calls on Thursday. Earlier, he said he believed all 27 EU countries would support granting Ukraine candidate status.
Diplomats, however, say it will take the ex-Soviet republic a decade or more to fit the criteria for joining the European bloc. Back in May, French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clement Beaune said that a bid by Ukraine to join the EU would take at least 15 to 20 years to be finalized.
Russia may completely cut off gas to Europe, IEA warns
Also on Wednesday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that Europe should be prepared for a future without Russian gas as Moscow may cut off gas supplies to Europe entirely in an attempt to bolster its political leverage during the Ukraine war.
“I wouldn’t rule out Russia continuing to find different issues here and there and continuing to find excuses to further reduce gas deliveries to Europe – and maybe even cut it off completely,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.
“This is the reason Europe needs contingency plans,” he added, adding that a recent reduction in flows might be an attempt to gain political leverage ahead of higher-demand winter months.
Yet, Birol stressed that the IEA did not see a complete cut-off as the most likely scenario.
The EU has imposed sanctions on Russian oil and coal. However, it has not yet banned gas imports from Russia because of its heavy reliance on supplies from Moscow.
So far, Russia’s state-owned Gasprom has cut supplies to Denmark, Bulgaria, Poland, and Finland for refusing to make payments for Russian gas in rubles under a new scheme. Earlier this month, Russia said that it had no intention of cutting gas supplies to any more European countries as Moscow’s scheme of receiving gas payments in rubles was working as planned.