PARIS (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy paid a surprise visit to Paris on Sunday evening for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, extending a multi-stop European tour that has prompted new pledges of military support as his country grows. preparing for a counter-offensive against Russia. occupying forces.
In a tweet upon his arrival, Zelenskyy said: “With each visit Ukraine’s defense and offensive capabilities grow. Ties with Europe are getting stronger and pressure on Russia is increasing.
He said he and Macron “will talk about the most important points of bilateral relations”. The French leader’s office said they would discuss Ukraine’s military and humanitarian needs and “longer-term prospects for a return to peace in Europe”, and that Macron “will reaffirm the unwavering support of France and of Europe” to Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.
France has supplied Ukraine with a range of weapons, including air defense systems, light tanks, howitzers and other weapons, equipment and fuel. Macron and Zelenskyy did not speak to the waiting reporters when they greeted each other at the French presidential palace.
France sent a plane to pick up Zelenskyy in Germany, where he met Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier on Sunday and discussed his country’s planned counteroffensive. Zelenskyy said he will aim to liberate Russian-occupied areas within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, not attack Russian territory.
The Washington Post cited previously undisclosed documents from a slew of US intelligence leaks suggesting that Zelenskyy considered trying to capture areas in Russia suitable for possible use as bargaining chips in peace talks for end the war Moscow launched in February 2022. That would put him at odds with Western governments who have insisted that the weapons they supply must not be used to attack targets in Russia.
Asked about the report, Zelenskyy said: “We are not attacking Russian territory, we are liberating our own legitimate territory.”
“We have neither the time nor the strength (to attack Russia),” he said, according to an official interpreter. “And we don’t have any weapons to spare either, with which we could do this.”
“We are preparing a counterattack for the illegally occupied areas on the basis of our constitutionally defined legitimate borders, which are internationally recognized,” Zelenskyy said.
Among the areas still occupied by Russia are the Crimean Peninsula and parts of eastern Ukraine with predominantly Russian-speaking populations.
Ukraine’s president visits allies in search of additional weapons to help his country repel the Russian invasion and funds to rebuild what has been destroyed by more than a year of devastating conflict.
A Luftwaffe plane flew Zelenskyy to the German capital from Rome, where he had met Pope Francis and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Saturday.
It was his first visit to Berlin since the start of the war and came a day after the German government announced a new military aid package to Ukraine worth more than 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion), including tanks, anti-aircraft systems and ammunition. .
Zelenskyy thanked Scholz for Germany’s political, financial and military support, saying the country is now only second to the United States in aid to Ukraine – and joked that he strove to make it the biggest donor.
“German air defense systems, artillery, tanks and infantry fighting vehicles are saving Ukrainian lives and bringing us closer to victory. Germany is a reliable ally! Together, we bring peace closer! he wrote on Twitter after the meeting.
Scholz said Berlin had so far given Kiev some 17 billion euros in bilateral aid and could expect more in the future.
“We will support you as long as necessary,” he said, adding that it was up to Russia to end the war by withdrawing its troops.
After initially hesitating to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons, Germany has become one of Ukraine’s largest arms suppliers, including Leopard 1 and 2 main battle tanks and the sophisticated air defense system IRIS-T SLM. Modern Western equipment is seen as crucial if Ukraine is to succeed in its planned counter-offensive against Russian troops.
Zelenskyy said one of the reasons for his latest visit to Allied capitals was to forge a “fighter coalition” that would provide Ukraine with the fighter jets it needs to counter Russia’s air dominance. Russia.
Germany has said in the past that it does not have the F-16 jets Ukraine needs and Scholz answered questions about possible aircraft deliveries by referring to the anti-aircraft system that Ukraine needs. he provided in Kiev.
“That’s what we as Germany are focusing on now,” he said.
In Ukraine, officials denied on Sunday that the country had anything to do with the downing of two Russian helicopters near the border the day before.
In a joint statement after their meeting, Scholz and Zelenskyy said they supported efforts to bring those responsible for atrocities in Ukraine to justice and took note of the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Cheese fries.
They also pledged to ensure that sanctions against Russia are not circumvented and to explore possibilities of using frozen Russian assets to pay for damages caused in Ukraine.
Germany said it supported Kiev’s efforts to join the European Union and backed NATO members’ 2008 vow to pave the way for Ukraine’s membership in the military alliance .
Zelenskyy met for the first time with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German head of state, who was snubbed by Kiev last year, apparently because of his close ties with Russia, causing a cooling of diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Germany. Since then, Steinmeier and Chancellor Olaf Scholz have visited Ukraine.
After meeting Scholz and other senior Chancellery officials, the two leaders flew to the western city of Aachen for Zelenskyy to receive the prestigious International Charlemagne Prize, awarded to him and the Ukrainian people.
In her congratulatory speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen compared the war in Ukraine to the fall of the Iron Curtain more than 30 years ago.
“Every generation has their time when they have to stand up for democracy and what they believe in,” she said. “For us, that time has come.”
Zelenskyy accused Moscow of trying to turn back the clock in European history in its attack on Ukraine.
“Modern Russia not only waged war against us, as a free and sovereign state, and not only against united Europe as a global symbol of peace and prosperity,” he said. in his acceptance speech. “It’s Russia’s war for the past.”
Zelenskyy’s chief aide, Andriy Yermak, said on Sunday five civilians died in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine when an unexploded Russian shell exploded.
Overnight, Russia launched a “massive” attack on Ukraine with Iranian-made Shahed explosive drones, which injured more than 30, according to the Ukrainian military.
Eighteen of the 23 drones were shot down, but those that passed and debris from those that were intercepted damaged 50 apartment buildings, private homes and other buildings, the military said without providing further details.
Russia also hit the western city of Ternopil and the southern city of Mykolaiv with rockets, injuring an unknown number of civilians.
Shelling by Russian forces on Sunday killed two people – a 59-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man – in Chuhuiv district of Kharkiv province in northeastern Ukraine, the regional governor reported Oleh Syniehubov on Telegram.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry reported on Sunday that Ukrainian forces had killed two of its colonels in the Bakhmut region.
Jordans reported from Berlin. David Rising in Kyiv and Elise Morton in London contributed to this report.
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