EU marks Ukraine invasion anniversary with fresh pledge of support

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Ursula von der Leyen insisted that the EU remained committed to supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia as she arrived in Kyiv on the second anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion.

“More than ever, we stand firmly by Ukraine. Financially, economically, militarily, morally. Until the country is finally free,” the EU Commission president wrote on X in a message sent from Kyiv’s main railway station on Saturday.

Her comments came as members of the G7 nations prepared to hold a meeting in Kyiv.

EU support for Ukraine is vital, given the near-halt in US aid coupled with uncertainty over who will win the US presidential election in November.

Ahead of the G7 meeting, Oleksandr Syrskyi, Ukraine’s top general, thanked Kyiv’s western partners for their support, adding on Telegram: “Every projectile, every tank, every armoured vehicle is, first of all, saving the life of a Ukrainian soldier.”

Von Der Leyen’s arrival was followed by Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni — Italy assumed the G7 presidency in January — and her Canadian and Belgian counterparts, Justin Trudeau and Alexander De Croo. Meloni and Trudeau will meet Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this afternoon while other G7 leaders will join the meeting virtually.

Nato representatives as well as US senators and UK parliamentarians, including former prime minister Boris Johnson, have also travelled to Kyiv.

Countries including Japan, Sweden, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands have announced billions of dollars worth of military packages in the run-up to the anniversary of the invasion.

But according to military experts, those commitments are not enough to plug the hole created by the US congressional stand-off over the White House’s proposed $60bn aid package.

The US has been the biggest source of military aid for Ukraine, sending $46bn since the beginning of the invasion, as well as a further $28bn in other assistance.

The EU’s four-year financial package of €50bn will struggle to cover Ukraine’s economic needs. The country’s budget deficit for 2024 alone is about $40bn.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass the bill “before it’s too late”. The bill’s progress has been held up by a dispute between Democrats and Republicans over illegal immigration and security on the Mexican border.

“If [Vladimir] Putin does not pay the price for his death and destruction, he will keep going. And the costs to the United States — along with our Nato allies and partners in Europe and around the world — will rise,” Biden said.

Last week, Biden blamed a lack of US support for Ukraine’s retreat from the eastern Donetsk town of Avdiivka.

Zelenskyy recently criticised western allies for what he called an “artificial deficit of weapons”. The EU has delivered less than half of the artillery shells it had promised by spring 2024.

Since Ukraine’s successes in 2022, it has struggled to win back more territory. Western aid has been slow to arrive, leaving Russian forces time to regroup and build defences.

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