European leaders stream into Ukraine to show solidarity

AP , Saturday 9 Apr 2022

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on Saturday joined the stream of European leaders showing their support for Ukraine by traveling to the nation's capital for face-to-face meetings with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Emergency workers remove the body of a resident of a multi-storey building destroyed in a Russian attack, at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war in Borodyanka, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 9, 2022. AP

Johnson's surprise visit included a pledge of new military assistance, including 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems. This came a day after he promised to send an additional 100 million pounds ($130 million) of high-grade military equipment to Ukraine, saying Britain wanted to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression.

Johnson also confirmed further economic support, guaranteeing an additional $500 million in World Bank lending to Ukraine, taking Britain's total loan guarantee to up to $1 billion.

``Today I met my friend President (at)ZelenskyyUa in Kyiv as a show of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine,'' Johnson said on Twitter. ``We're setting out a new package of financial & military aid which is a testament of our commitment to his country's struggle against Russia's barbaric campaign.''

The head of Ukraine's presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said ``the conversation was rich and constructive,'' but offered no details.

An image of the two leaders meeting was posted online by the Ukrainian Embassy in London with the headline: ``Surprise,'' and a winking smiley face.

The package of military aid Britain announced Friday includes more Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, another 800 anti-tank missiles and precision munitions capable of lingering in the sky until directed to their target.

``Ukraine has defied the odds and pushed back Russian forces from the gates of Kyiv, achieving the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century,? Johnson said in a statement. ``It is because of President Zelenskyy's resolute leadership and the invincible heroism and courage of the Ukrainian people that Putin's monstrous aims are being thwarted.''

As Zelenskyy makes a continuous round of virtual appearances to drum up support from lawmakers around the world, an increasing number of European leaders have decided the time is right to travel to Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, for in-person talks. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was in Kyiv on Friday, following earlier visits from the Czech, Polish and Slovenian prime ministers.

Nehammer met with Zelenskyy earlier Saturday and pledged that the EU would continue to ratchet up sanctions against Russia ``until the war stops.''

``As long as people are dying, every sanction is still insufficient,'' he said, adding that Austrian embassy staff will return to Kyiv from western Ukraine.

Von der Leyen, who heads the European Union's executive branch, travelled to Warsaw on Saturday to lead a fundraising event for Ukraine. She was joined by Polish President Andrzej Duda, with Zelenskyy and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appearing by video link.

At the end of the 90-minute meeting, von der Leyen said 10.1 billion euros ($11 billion) had been raised for Ukrainian refugees.

The event was held in Warsaw because more than 2.5 million of the 4.4 million people who have fled Ukraine since Russia's invasion began Feb. 24 have entered Poland. Many have stayed, though some have moved on to other countries.

Convened jointly by von der Leyen and Trudeau, the event sought to attract pledges from governments, global celebrities and average citizens.

It ended with Julian Lennon singing his father John Lennon's peace song ``Imagine,`` which he said is the first time he did so publicly.

Julian Lennon posted on social media that he always said he would only sing the song if it was the ``end of the world.'' He says it's the right song to sing now because ``the war on Ukraine is an unimaginable tragedy,'' and he felt compelled to respond in the most significant way that he could.

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