Ukraine’s Zelenskiy says some EU leaders have promised aircraft
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said several European Union leaders told a summit he attended on Thursday they were ready to provide Kyiv with aircraft to help it fight against Russia's invasion.
Zelenskiy spoke after joining - for the first time ever - all the 27 national EU leaders' talks in Brussels, part of his second trip abroad since Russia attacked a year ago this month and one meant to get more arms from allies.
"Europe will be with us until our victory. I've heard it from a number of European leaders... about the readiness to give us the necessary weapons and support, including the aircraft," Zelenskiy told a news conference.
"I have a number of bilaterals now, we are going to raise the issue of the fighter jets and other aircraft."
He did not specify what EU countries said they were willing to send jets. After visiting London and Paris, he also said he also had "certain agreements, which are not public but positive". He did not elaborate.
EU member states have supplied large amounts of arms to Ukraine over the past year and have become increasingly comfortable with sending heavy weaponry such as battle tanks.
But they have yet to commit - publicly at least - to sending fighter jets and longer-range rockets, citing worries about a potential escalation of the conflict onto Russian territory.
Ukraine, which wants to join the EU, is also pushing for membership talks to start this year.
But while some EU member countries are keen to give Ukraine the morale boost that would come with starting talks to join the bloc, others are much more cautious. They have stressed would-be members need to meet a range of criteria - such as cracking down on corruption - before they can even start negotiations.
European Council chief Charles Michel made clear "the road to peace, reconstruction and membership will be a long, hard road," before adding: "We'll be with you every step of the way."
He also said there would be an update on Ukraine's accession process by the end of the year, without specifying what that would be.
Zelenskiy asked the EU for more sanctions against Russia, including in IT sector, to curb Moscow's ability to produce missiles for the war.
He told EU leaders they will go down in history just as the founding fathers of the bloc did if they now help bring peace to Ukraine, and bring it into the European Union: "Free Europe cannot be imagined without free Ukraine," he said.
(Reporting by Andrew Gray, Gabriela Baczynska, Philip Blenkinsop, Bart H. Meijer, Marine Strauss, Sudip Kar-Gupta, Kate Abnett, Dan Peleschuk; Writing by Andrew Gray and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Jan Strupczewski, Alex Richardson)