Volodymyr Zelensky on European tour: strengthening military alliances and call for peace

28 May 2024 / Interviews

On a tour of Europe, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected in Brussels on Tuesday to sign a bilateral security agreement with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, aimed at strengthening kyiv's military means in the face of the war against Moscow. After the signing, Zelensky will meet Belgian King Philippe and travel to Melsbroek military airport where Belgium will reaffirm its commitment to supplying F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, Belgium has promised aid of 1,2 billion euros to Ukraine, including 916 million for 2024, according to Belgian Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder. In addition, Belgium has trained nearly 2 Ukrainian soldiers.

This visit to Belgium is part of a broader tour by Zelensky in several European capitals. In Madrid on Monday, he urged the West to force Russia into peace “by all means” as kyiv demands permission to use Western weapons to strike Russian territory. Until now, Americans and Europeans have refused this request for fear of an escalation, a position which is nevertheless beginning to be debated among the allies.

In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced new military aid of one billion euros for 2024, while remaining evasive on the possibility of allowing Ukraine to use Western weapons against Russia. Zelensky stressed the need to pressure partners for more defense assets, including Patriot anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems.

After Brussels, Zelensky will travel to Portugal to meet Prime Minister Luis Montenegro and President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, aiming to strengthen security and defense cooperation. Portugal committed in February 2023 to deliver three Leopard 2 heavy tanks to Ukraine.

On the ground, Russian forces continue to advance, claiming the capture of new locations in eastern Ukraine. A recent strike on Kharkiv killed a woman, while an attack in the Mykolaiv region left three dead and six injured. Russia has stepped up its recruitment and mobilized its military industry to support its war effort.

A few weeks before a Ukraine peace summit planned in Switzerland, Zelensky rejected the idea of ​​inviting Russia, proposed by China and Brazil, fearing that Moscow would block negotiations. Finally, although the imminent arrival of French military instructors in Ukraine has been announced, the Kiev authorities have clarified that the decision has not yet been finalized.