At Finland summit, Zelensky receives support for Ukraine EU, NATO membership
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and Sauli Niinisto, Finland’s president, during a joint news conference following a summit of Nordic leaders in Helsinki, Finland, on Wednesday. Zelensky made a surprise visit to Finland to join the prime ministers of the Nordic nations to discuss their plans to back the country against Russian aggression. Photo courtesy of Ukrainian President Press Office | License Photo
May 3 (UPI) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to Finland on Wednesday for a summit with the leaders of five Nordic nations, seeking more international support in his country’s defense against Russia and receiving the backing of all the nations for Ukraine‘s eventual membership in the European Union and NATO.
Zelensky met in Helsinki with the prime ministers of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland after holding talks with Finland’s president, Sauli Niinisto, on “Ukraine’s defense struggle and Finland’s support for Ukraine,” according to a statement from Niinisto’s staff.
During a joint news conference after the summit, Zelensky denied recent Russian allegations that Ukraine was involved in an alleged drone attack on the Kremlin, targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We didn’t attack Putin. We leave it to the tribunal. We fight on our territory, we are defending our villages and cities,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky also thanked Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland for their countries’ ongoing support since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago.
“I thank Finland and Mr. President for organizing this summit for the security aid packages to our people in Ukraine and for the decisions we are preparing now and I’m sure we’ll adopt together,” Zelensky said.
“I thank Sweden and Mr. Prime Minister for your strong presidency and for your strong role in forming coalitions to protect Ukraine and our common freedom,” he added.
“I thank Denmark and Madame Prime Minister for your determination in supplying weapons and for a military package that has been formed to support our actions,” Zelensky said.
“I thank Norway and Mr. Prime Minister for how efficient you are in creating a new and long-lasting peace for Ukraine and all of Europe. And your financial support package of $7 billion is something that shows many others in the world.”
“And I thank Iceland and Madame Prime Minister for your direct involvement in creating an international register of damage caused by Russia and for your clear support of each step that brings Russia closer to full accountability,” Zelensky said as he called for complete protection against Russian terrorists, saying “we must do it together.”
During Wednesday’s summit, the Nordic nations announced that they will back Ukraine in its efforts to eventually become a member of the European Union and NATO, the leaders of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland said in a joint statement.
Ukraine could be granted entry to the international military alliance later this summer, although there have been some disagreements among member nations.
“Decisions are to be made. Today we discussed upcoming decisions, namely the NATO alliance and what we can and must do together for strengthening NATO,” Zelensky said.
“I thank you dear colleagues for your willingness to continue supporting our defense until our land is completely liberated from Russian occupation. We must teach Moscow to respect internationally recognized state borders,” Zelensky added. “To do so now means to do so forever.”
Zelensky’s trip to Finland was noteworthy as Finland officially became a member of the global body earlier this month, expanding the alliance to 31 countries and doubling NATO’s shared border with Russia.
After the summit, Zelensky will travel to Germany for an official state visit on May 13, according to government officials Berlin, marking his first trip to Germany since Russia invaded nearly 15 months ago.
The upcoming trip will include meetings with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as well as an awards ceremony in the western city of Aachen, where Zelensky will be honored with the Charlemagne Prize for his continuing efforts to unite Europe.
Zelensky’s travels were the latest in a series of foreign visits meant to shore up military support for Ukraine.
In early April, Zelensky went to the Polish capital to nudge his key ally, President Andrzej Duda, for more help. At the time, the leaders signed a bilateral agreement on Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction that would also lay the groundwork for Ukraine to legitimize its alliance with the European Union in the years ahead.
The Ukrainian president has also visited other key allies in recent months, including a critical sit-down with U.S. President Joe Biden in December that resulted in more funding and military aid.
Thus far, NATO allies have delivered more than 98% of combat vehicles that were promised to Ukraine to shore up the country’s defenses — including 1,550 armored haulers, 230 tanks, and other combat equipment, including vast amounts of ammunition.
Since the war began, NATO allies have provided more than $71 billion in military assistance and have trained tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops, while the United States has provided more than $35 billion in additional military support.
The U.S. Defense Department was also planning to deliver several rocket-launching air-defense vehicles along with a fleet of U.S.of U.S. M1 Abrams tanks that will soon arrive in Germany for training Ukrainians.