President Volodymyr Zelenskiy joined European leaders on Thursday in Moldova near Ukraine’s border to advocate for NATO membership ahead of an expected counter-offensive against Russia’s incursion.
Zelenskiy told Moldovan President Maia Sandu that his administration was preparing to discuss Ukrainian peace proposals and called for Western combat jets.
The EU’s 27 member states and 20 other European countries met at a castle in Moldovan wine country 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Ukrainian territory and near the Russian-backed breakaway region of Transdniestria.
The 2.5-million-person nation, suspicious of Russia and seeking EU membership, had security and organizational issues.
“We support Moldova and its people who are integrating into the EU,” Zelenskiy stated. We shall never forget the help of our refugees in the early days of the war. We’re EU-bound. Ukraine is NATO-ready.”
Sandu backed Ukraine’s peace efforts and urged Moldova’s EU discussions to start quickly.
At a separate NATO ministerial conference in Oslo, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia could not veto Ukraine’s membership; at the same time, Germany stressed it would not be possible while Ukraine was at war.
NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft oversaw the Moldova meeting. Since Russia invaded 15 months ago, Moldova has repeatedly uncovered Ukrainian missile debris.
Russia’s FSB chief warned the West was pressuring Moldova to join the Ukraine crisis.
The meeting will focus on Ukraine’s counter-offensive using Western weapons to oust Russian occupiers.
“The presence of these leaders in our country is a clear message that Moldova is not alone and neither is our neighbour Ukraine, which for a year and three months has been standing against the barbaric invasion of Russia,” Sandu said earlier.
The EU wants to use the meeting to address tensions in northern Kosovo between the ruling ethnic Albanian majority and minority Serbs, which have escalated into bloodshed in recent days, leading NATO to send 700 extra peacekeepers.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he had pushed Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Slovakia on Wednesday to help defuse the crisis and hoped to tell Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Moldova.
The summit will also discuss energy, cybersecurity, and migration.
Azerbaijan and Armenia will meet with Macron, Scholz, and EU officials to discuss other European issues.
Moldova, like Ukraine, applied to join the EU last year following the Russian invasion, and Chisinau plans to use the summit to showcase changes and persuade leaders to start discussions.
As food and energy prices rose due to the conflict, Moldova accepted the most Ukrainian migrants per capita.
The government has accused Russia of seeking to destabilize the mostly Romanian-speaking country by influencing the separatist movement in Transdniestria, which is mostly Russian-speaking.