Heads of state, top diplomats visit Ukraine to show support
ODESA, Ukraine (AP) — Two heads of state and seven foreign ministers from a group of Ukraine's European backers visited the war-torn country Friday to express support for Kyiv in its defense against Russia's invasion.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, hosting his counterparts from four Nordic and three Baltic countries in the southern port city of Odesa, repeated a plea for the delivery of U.S.-made fighter jets to his country.
“(The jets) are needed to cover our brigades that are going to (counter-attack),” Kuleba said.
Although no promises were made, he added, ”I have a feeling that our colleagues are well-disposed in this matter.”
Ukraine has long pushed for Western fighter jets for its air force, without success. Its Western partners have, however, provided a number of former Soviet MiG-29 fighters.
Kuleba met with the foreign ministers of Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Because of government formation talks in Finland, the Nordic country was represented by a senior Foreign Ministry official.
“Through this visit, we manifest strong Nordic and Baltic support for Ukraine and its people,” said Tobias Billström of Sweden whose country currently holds the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union.
”I honestly don’t remember if Odesa ever hosted this many ministers of foreign affairs at once. If this is the first such time, we are glad, together with our colleagues, to set a new standard,” Kuleba said.
Also Friday, in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with the president of Slovakia, Zuzana Čaputová, and the Czech Republic, Petr Pavel.
Zelenskyy said they discussed military aid to help Ukraine address Russia’s invasion and “prepare for (the) counteroffensive,” as well as the forthcoming NATO summit in July in Vilnius, Lithuania.
“We are expecting ambitious decisions that will enforce Europe’s security,” he said. “The time has come to eliminate any uncertainty.”
There has long been talk of a Ukrainian spring counter-offensive against invading Russian forces, but it has still to materialize.
Czech President Pavel said what he saw in Ukraine reminded him of the devastation from wars in Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia.
“Fortunately, it hasn’t broken the Ukrainians,” said Pavel, a retired army general and former senior NATO official. “Russia has shown such an inclination to barbarism in recent years that I’m not surprised.”
Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv and Jan Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Nicolae Dumitrache, The Associated Press