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Zelensky, Borrell meet in Kyiv, discuss security cooperation, ammunition deliveries

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 7, 2024 9:48 PM 3 min read
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell shake hands during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 7, 2024. (Presidential Office)
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President Volodymyr Zelensky and European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met in Kyiv on Feb. 7 to discuss security cooperation between Kyiv and the EU and ammunition deliveries to Ukraine, among other topics, the Presidential Office reported.

Borrell arrived in Kyiv a day before in a gesture of the EU's continued commitment to Ukraine as it faces Russian aggression. European assistance is ever more crucial now as support from the U.S. remains stalled by domestic political disputes.

After months of delay, European leaders agreed on Feb. 1 to allocate an additional 50 billion euros ($54 billion) in financial support package for Ukraine within the EU budget. Brussels has yet to decide on the format of further defense assistance for Ukraine.

During their talks, the leaders focused on the most pressing needs of Ukrainian defenders and the importance of accelerating the EU's plan to supply Ukraine with one million artillery rounds, according to Zelensky's Office.

After telling Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal that the EU aims to deliver over 1 million shells to Ukraine by the end of 2024, Borrell reportedly reiterated the promise to Zelensky.

Borrell recently conceded that the European bloc will fail on its promise to provide the ammunition by March. Only around half of the number is projected to be delivered by the original deadline.

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Zelensky told Borrell that the EU should recognize Ukraine as a priority destination for the export of artillery shells and ramp up their production in member states, the Presidential Office wrote.

"Halting the export of artillery munitions to third EU countries is the only possible correct solution given the current security challenges," Zelensky said at the meeting.

Ukraine is confronted with a "critical" shortage of artillery shells, according to a document Defense Minister Rustem Umerov sent to Kyiv's European allies seen by Bloomberg. Ukrainian forces are unable to fire more than 2,000 shells per day, around a third of Russia's average daily shell usage, Umerov wrote.

Russia, in turn, has reportedly increased its military production capacity and is likely already able to produce one million shells a year. Moscow is also receiving new supplies of ammunition from abroad, with North Korea likely becoming Russia's largest arms supplier.

During the Feb. 7 meeting, Zelensky and Borrell also discussed Ukraine's updated mobilization bill, which the Ukrainian parliament passed in the first reading earlier the same day.

Zelensky thanked Borrell for Europe's continued support for Ukraine, which has been fighting off Russia's full-scale invasion for almost two years.

"You have always been with us in difficult moments. In times of immense challenges, you have always supported Ukraine and Ukrainians in our struggle for life, sovereignty, and independence."

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