Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reiterated, Saturday, in Kiev, on the first day of Spain’s presidency of the European Union, the European Union’s support for Ukraine, but he regretted the slow pace of military aid promised by the West.
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“From the point of view of the European Union on the accession of Ukraine, my presence on the first day of this six-month presidency (…) proves a clear and unequivocal political commitment on the part of the institutions of society,” emphasized Mr. Sanchez during a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The visit also precedes the important NATO summit scheduled for July 11-12 in Vilnius to set a roadmap for future relations between Ukraine and the Western military organization.
In this regard, the Ukrainian president stressed to reporters, “We need a very clear and clear signal at the Vilnius summit that Ukraine can become a full member of NATO after the war.”
“This call to the Alliance is the first step, very concrete, that will be very important for us.”
The joint statement released following the meeting with Mr. Sanchez stressed that Spain “renews its support for Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership, which will be a priority of its presidency,” and “supports strengthening the partnership between NATO and Ukraine, including through the creation of the NATO-Ukraine Council.”
The Spanish Prime Minister had announced this visit Thursday at the European Union summit, explaining that his goal is to show “unwavering support” for the Union in Kiev in the face of the Russian invasion.
Ukraine achieved EU candidate status a year ago, and hopes to start formal negotiations this year about the steps it will need to take to boost its chances of membership.
However, President Zelensky reiterated his criticisms of “some” Western partners over training Ukrainian pilots to fly combat aircraft.
“Do they have any idea when Ukraine will be able to get the F-16s?” he said alongside Mr. Sanchez. “There is no timetable for the training mission. I think some partners are slowing down,” he added.
Sixteen months after the start of the Russian invasion, Ukraine said on Saturday that it was fighting “fierce” battles as part of its counter-offensive launched about a month ago, but had yet to witness a decisive step forward.
Ukraine’s military chief, Valery Zaluzny, said in an interview published by The Washington Post on Friday that the Ukrainian military is being hampered by a lack of armaments, particularly US F-16 fighter jets.
We don’t need 120 planes. I will not threaten the entire planet. He told the American newspaper that a small number would suffice. “But it is necessary, there is no other solution.”
He also laments the lack of artillery in the face of the deluge of Russian fire.
If Valery Zalogny said that he is in constant contact with his Western military partners, such as the US Chief of Staff Mark Milley, then they are not the ones who make decisions, he regrets.
“By the time decisions are made, it is clear that many people are dying, every day, in large numbers. Simply because decisions are not made immediately,” he insists.
Mark Milley replied in Washington that the United States and its allies are doing everything they can to send Ukraine what it needs.
“We are giving them all possible assistance,” he told reporters on Friday. Delivery of F-16 or ATACMS tactical missiles to them “is on the table, but no decision has been made yet.”
He also felt that the counterattack was “going more slowly than we expected”, but “so is the war”.
The U.S. Chief of Staff noted that the Ukrainian military was making “constant progress”, “500, 1,000, 2,000 meters a day, that sort of thing”.
In addition, a US official confirmed to AFP that CIA Director William Burns had recently traveled to Ukraine to meet with the heads of Ukrainian intelligence, as well as Mr. Zelensky.
During this trip, he explained, Mr. Burns reaffirmed “the United States’ commitment to sharing all information necessary to assist Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression.”