Ukraine's Zelenskyy makes emotional appeal for EU membership

Ukraine wants to become part of the European Union in a matter of years, but in practice it can take decades to join the bloc.
Posted at 11:59 AM, Feb 09, 2023

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that “a Ukraine that is winning” its war with Russia should be a member of the European Union, arguing the bloc wouldn't be complete without it.

Zelenskyy made his appeal during an emotional day at EU headquarters in Brussels as he wrapped up a rare, two-day trip outside Ukraine to seek new weaponry from the West to repel the full-scale invasion that Moscow has been waging for nearly a year. As he spoke, a new offensive by Russia in eastern Ukraine was underway.

Zelenskyy, who also visited the U.K. and France, received rapturous applause and cheers from the European Parliament and a summit of the 27 EU leaders, insisting in his speech that the fight with Russia was one for the freedom of all of Europe.

Zelenskyy tells UK 'freedom will win,'pushes for warplanes

Zelenskyy tells UK 'freedom will win,'pushes for warplanes

This was was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's second confirmed journey outside Ukraine since Russia invaded nearly a year ago.


“A Ukraine that is winning is going to be member of the European Union,” Zelenskyy said, building his appeal around the common destiny that Ukraine and the bloc face in confronting Russia.

“Europe will always be, and remain Europe as long as we ... take care of the European way of life,” he said.

He added that membership talks should start later this year, an ambitious request, considering the huge task ahead. Such a move would help motivate Ukrainian soldiers in their defense of the country.

“There is no rigid timeline,” warned EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

He held up an EU flag after his address and the entire legislature stood in somber silence as the Ukrainian national anthem and the European anthem “Ode to Joy” were played in succession.

Before his speech, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said allies should consider “quickly, as a next step, providing long-range systems” and fighter jets to Ukraine. The response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine “must be proportional to the threat, and the threat is existential,” she said.

Metsola also told Zelenskyy that “we have your back. We were with you then, we are with you now, we will be with you for as long as it takes.”

A draft of the summit’s conclusions seen by The Associated Press said “the European Union will stand by Ukraine with steadfast support for as long as it takes.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the bloc will send Zelenskyy “this signal of unity and solidarity, and can show that we will continue our support for Ukraine in defending its independence and integrity.”

Military analysts say Putin is hoping that Europe’s support for Ukraine will wane as Russia is believed to be preparing a new offensive.

The Kremlin’s forces “have regained the initiative in Ukraine and have begun their next major offensive” in the eastern Luhansk region, most of which is occupied by Russia, the Institute for the Study of War, said in its latest assessment. “Russian forces are gradually beginning an offensive, but its success is not inherent or predetermined.”

NATO chief fears Ukraine war could become a wider conflict

NATO chief fears Ukraine war could become a wider conflict

The head of NATO has expressed worry that the fighting in Ukraine could spin out of control and become a war between Russia and NATO.


Zelenskyy used the dais of the European Parliament hoping to match Wednesday's speech to Britain's legislature when he thanked the nation for its unrelenting support.

That same support has come from the EU. The bloc and its member states have already backed Kyiv with about $53.6 billion in aid, provided military hardware and imposed nine packages of sanctions on the Kremlin.

The EU is in the midst of brokering a new sanctions package worth about $10.7 billion before the war's anniversary. And there is still plenty of scope for exporting more military hardware to Ukraine as a Russian spring offensive is expected.

Russia is also watching Zelenskyy's movements closely. On Wednesday, Russian state television showed the flight path of a British air force plane that Zelenskyy used to travel to London taken from a flight monitoring site. The anchor noted that the plane flew from the Polish air base in Rzeszow that serves as a hub for Western arms deliveries to Ukraine.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by Putin, visited a Siberian arms factory Thursday and declared that Russia will respond to the Western aid by churning out thousands of tanks.

“Our enemy was begging for aircraft, missiles and tanks on a trip abroad,” Medvedev said during a visit to the factory in Omsk. “We will naturally increase the output of various types of weapons and military equipment, including modern tanks. We are talking about production and modernization of thousands of tanks.”

Zelenskyy's visit to EU headquarters should add to the goodwill to help Ukraine become part of the bloc. Ukraine wants membership in a matter of years, while in practice it can take decades to join.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.