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Zelensky urges EU leaders to give Ukraine shells, air defense systems in address to European Council

by Kateryna Denisova March 21, 2024 11:27 PM 3 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky in his office. (Ukraine's Presidential Office)
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President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered an address to the European Council summit on March 21, urging EU leaders to provide Ukraine with more weapons, namely ammunition and air defense systems.

Zelensky said Ukraine doesn't have enough air defense systems to protect the country's entire territory from Russian attacks. He called on allies to send more of them to cover the entire country, including the south and east, which suffer daily Russian strikes.

Zelensky called ammunition supplies "vital" for Ukraine, which is currently facing a critical shortage of shells and missiles.

"Unfortunately, the use of artillery on the front line by our soldiers is humiliating for Europe in the sense that Europe can provide more. And it is crucial to prove it now," Zelensky said.

He also urged allies to "not waste the time" and ramp up defense production. His words echo European Council President Charles Michel's call ahead of the summit to put the EU's economy on a “war footing” by increasing joint defense spending and buying.

Zelesnky welcomed the EU's initiative to open an office for Defense Innovation in Kyiv and encouraged allies to invest in Ukrainian drone production.

"The potential of our drone production is sufficient. And sufficient funding is needed to realize this potential on the front line," Zelensky said.

President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a virtual address to the European Council on March 21, 2024. (Ukraine's Presidential Office)

Zelensky rebuked the allies for putting pressure on Ukraine in trade issues. According to Zelensky, Kyiv has once again become a donor of food security for traditional Ukrainian export destinations, including North Africa and Asia.

"While Ukrainian grain is thrown on the roads or railway tracks, Russian products are still being transported to Europe, as well as goods from Putin-controlled Belarus. This is not fair. It is even more unfair when someone tries to break down systematic trade solutions that have been in place for years and work for the strength of the whole Europe," Zelensky said.

He also mentioned the start of "real" negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU, calling it "one of the key elements in motivating our people in the fight against Russia."

Zelensky assured that Kyiv is fulfilling its part of the commitments, and the block has a negotiating framework ready for consideration.

"Its approval could greatly support our people and send the right signal to the whole of Europe after the European Parliament elections in June," Zelensky said.

At the end of his speech, Zelensky called on EU leaders to use frozen Russian assets to help rebuild Ukraine and purchase weapons this year.

The European Commission has proposed to use 90% of the revenue generated by frozen Russian assets to purchase weapons for Kyiv and allocate the remaining 10% to the EU budget to support Ukraine's defense industry. The proposed measure would allocate around 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to Ukraine per year.

However, EU leaders are unlikely to reach an agreement on confiscating profits from Russian assets during the summit, namely because Hungary is against using them to boost Ukraine's military capabilities, Deutsche Welle reported, citing an unnamed senior European diplomat.

5 things to know about the latest weapons being sent to Ukraine
Over the past few days, Germany, Belgium, and Finland announced aid packages for Ukraine totaling over 1 billion euros, a critical boost to Kyiv’s military from Europe as the U.S. continues to squabble over and delay a $60 billion package of its own. While the latest assistance pledged is
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