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Zelenskiy: European Unity Is Fundamental To Security

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has told EU leaders that a free Europe is not possible without a free Ukraine, as he pressed for more weapons to aid Kyiv’s defense against invading Russian forces.

"Europe should not have gray zones, our whole continent should be open to European destiny," Zelenskiy told an EU summit in Brussels on February 9, in which he also pressed for fast-tracked Ukrainian membership of the European Union.

Zelenskiy said that Ukraine had “never wanted, never provoked” the full-scale war launched by Russia nearly one year ago, and that the security of Europe as a whole was tied to the war’s outcome.

"The unity of Europe is fundamental to security," Zelenskiy said, adding that a "free Europe cannot be imagined without free Ukraine.”

The February 9 visit was the latest stop in Zelenskiy’s surprise tour of Europe to lobby for more weapons and EU membership to aid Ukraine’s defense, and came as Russian forces reportedly stepped up attacks in Ukraine’s east ahead of an expected offensive.

The trip to Brussels gave Zelenskiy the opportunity to speak to all 27 leaders of the European Union following visits to Britain and France the day earlier. Josep Borrell, who chairs EU summits, said without providing details that the EU leaders would promise more military support for Ukraine.

Standing in front of the Ukrainian flag, Zelenskiy told the European Parliament ahead of the summit that his country is fighting “against the biggest anti-European force of the modern world.”

He also thanked EU lawmakers for the help the bloc has already provided since Russia invaded more than 11 months ago.

"Thank you," Zelenskiy said as EU lawmakers gave him a long standing ovation. “We are defending ourselves in the battlefield, we Ukrainians, together with you...."

He also vowed that one day “Ukraine will be part of the European Union, a victorious Ukraine.”

In recent weeks, Ukraine has received promises from Western countries for the provision of battle tanks to boost its forces, but has called for even more advanced weaponry, including fighter jets and longer-range rockets.

EU Parliament head Roberta Metsola said while addressing Zelenskiy that "you need to win and now (EU) member states must consider quickly as the next step providing long-range systems and the jets that you need to protect your liberty."

During his visit to the British Parliament on January 8, Zelenskiy specifically called on Western leaders to provide fighter jets.

Later the same day, Zelenskiy met in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on February 9 that any delivery of fighter jets by the West would mark a more “direct” role by NATO countries in the war, and that it would only increase tensions and bring more pain and suffering to Ukrainians.

"This is nothing more than the growing involvement of the United Kingdom, Germany and France in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine," Peskov told reporters.

"The line between indirect and direct involvement is gradually disappearing. One can only express regret in this regard, and say that such actions...lead to an escalation of tension, prolong the conflict, and make the conflict more and more painful for Ukraine," Peskov added.

Zelenskiy’s tour is believed to be only his second trip abroad since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine nearly one year ago, and comes as Russian forces attempt to make a breakthrough in Ukraine’s east ahead of an expected major offensive.

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On February 9, Luhansk region Governor Serhiy Hayday said that Russian forces were trying to break through Ukrainian defenses near Kreminna. Control of the town would put Russian forces within 70 kilometers of the city of Kramatorsk, a much larger city in the Donetsk region.

"I can confirm that there has been a significant increase in attacks and shelling,” Hayday said on Ukrainian television. “And it is in the direction of Kreminna that they are trying to build on their success by pushing through our defenders' defenses.”

Hayday added that Russian forces had not had “significant success,” saying that “our defense forces are holding firmly there."

On February 9, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that more than 900 Russian soldiers had died the previous day, which would be one of the bloodiest of the war that began with Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24.

Western media has reported that the number of Russian soldiers killed or wounded in the war is approaching 200,000.

Russia does not regularly disclose data on its war casualties.

By RFE/RL

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