Von der Leyen, other leaders pledge Ukraine support in anniversary visit to Kyiv

Italy's Meloni plans to conduct G7 videoconference from Ukrainian capital.

Von der Leyen, other leaders pledge Ukraine support in anniversary visit to Kyiv

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was in Kyiv on Saturday to express support for Ukraine on the second anniversary of Russia’s all-out invasion.

“More than ever we stand firmly by Ukraine. Financially, economically, militarily, morally. Until the country is finally free,” von der Leyen said in a post on X after she arrived in Kyiv.

She arrived shortly after a Russian drone attack struck a residential building in the southern city of Odesa, killing at least one person, the Associated Press reported. 

Von der Leyen is accompanied other officials, including Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, whose country currently holds the presidency of the Council of the EU, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni also was in Kyiv where she conducted a G7 videoconference on Saturday. The G7 virtual meeting included G7 leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden, as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The G7 leaders issued a joint statement advocating their continued support for Ukraine.

“As Ukraine enters the third year of this relentless war, its government and its people can count on the G7’s support for as long as it takes,” the G7 leaders said in their statement.

The visit comes amid Ukraine’s military and economic struggles at the two-year mark of Moscow’s full-scale invasion, with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces winning ground on the battlefield and Ukraine hampered by a shortage of Western-supplied ammunition. The leaders attended a wreath laying ceremony to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

“Today, we are here to tell you that Europe will continue to stand at your side, for as long as it takes with more financial support, more ammunition, more training for your troops, more air defenses, and more investment in Europe’s and Ukraine’s defense industries,” von der Leyen said after she arrived.

The EU earlier this month agreed to provide €50 billion in aid to Ukraine and is working toward using the profits generated by confiscated Russian assets to finance Ukraine’s reconstruction. The EU also agreed on a new package of sanctions against Russia, which adds around 200 names to the list of individuals banned from traveling to the EU.

But the 27 EU governments have yet to reach a deal to top up the bloc’s defense fund and agree on joint arms purchases for Ukraine. Von der Leyen earlier this week also poured cold water on Kyiv’s hopes of taking quick next steps on its future accession to the EU.

On Saturday in Kyiv, von der Leyen said the Commission will submit the negotiating framework on Ukraine’s EU bid in mid-March. “We have started the screening process, with a very busy schedule of meetings,” she said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg took the occasion of the anniversary of the Russian invasion to reiterate that Ukraine is on a path toward membership in the defense alliance. “Ukraine will join NATO. It is not a question of if, but of when,” Stoltenberg said in a statement on Saturday.

“President Putin started this war because he wanted to close NATO’s door, and deny Ukraine the right to choose its own path. But he has achieved the exact opposite: Ukraine is now closer to NATO than ever before,” he said.

In Kyiv on Saturday, von der Leyen also delivered 50 vehicles provided by the EU to the National Police of Ukraine and Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. The vehicles will be used to support the investigation and prosecution of war crimes in areas retaken from Russian occupation, the Commission said. The delivery is part of a larger EU support package related to public services in high-risk environments.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron has organized a meeting in Paris on Monday with the leaders of several countries regarding support for Ukraine, AFP reported with specifying the countries invited.