On train to Kew with Charles Michael: “It’s a fundamental day for Ukraine”

Charles Michael left Berlin, where he attended a dinner with African leaders. The stakes of this meeting are not entirely alien to Ukraine, as the West tries (so far with limited success) to rally the South to its cause.

The Ukrainian train, reminiscent of the Soviet era, arrives at Kew at 11am local time on Tuesday. Without a minute’s delay, the railway system is often considered one of the “Ukrainian miracles” because it continued to operate even after the war. “I would like to express the EU’s strong support for Ukraine in these geopolitical circumstances”, explains the Belgian, before taking the stage and meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Indeed, the latter finds his allies’ efforts to support the Ukrainian cause (especially with military aid) exhausting; West to focus more on Israeli-Palestinian conflict; And the war in his country gradually disappeared from the front pages of newspapers around the world. The Prime Ministers of Belgium and Spain, Alexandre de Croux and Pedro Sánchez, were also invited to Kiev. But they were very busy this week with work for Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The cold pierces the bones, while the thermometer dances around 0, thus playing with the nerves of Ukrainians, who know how much Russia likes to play with negative temperatures. Last winter was synonymous with massive bombing of Ukrainian energy infrastructure and an increase in Russian attacks in general. This scenario risks repeating itself, Mr. Zelensky warned on Saturday. “As Winter Approaches, Russia’s Efforts to Intensify Attacks”He expects. “Despite the difficulties, despite all the fatigue we must be 100% efficient.”

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In the Kiev region, the weekend was marked by a shower of dozens of drones sent by Moscow – including about twenty types. Shahid, or “kamikaze” drones, manufactured by Iran. Although most are intercepted, especially thanks to missiles The patriot These drones, supplied by Western allies, are mainly used to contain the threat. The natural look of Kiev’s streets is sometimes a reminder of the war to those who have allowed themselves to be forgotten.

Charles Michel is here to join Ukrainians in commemorating a key date in their history: on November 21, 2013, the revolution was born on the Maidan (Freedom Square) in Kiev, after President Viktor Yanukovych decided to nip an association agreement in the bud. with the European Union. “This is a fundamental day. Ten years ago, Ukrainians died because they wanted to move closer to the EU., emphasizes the President of the European Council. Neither cold nor violent repression quenched the Ukrainians’ determination to express themselves. Mr Yanukovych fled. An outrage for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who did not fail to retaliate. This was followed by the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, the occupation of part of eastern Ukraine and finally Russia’s brutal invasion on February 24, 2022.

Earlier in the day, Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed US Defense Secretary, who brought a reassuring message to Kiev. “I’m here today to deliver an important message: America will continue to stand with Ukraine in its fight for freedom against Russian aggression, now and into the future.”, he declared. It’s true that the interim US budget adopted by Republicans does not include additional aid for Ukraine – President Joe Biden asked for $61.4 billion. Conclusion: The Pentagon is trying to use the remaining $5 billion in its budget to continue sending arms to Kyiv.

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In view of US reluctance, the EU was called upon to play a more prominent role in helping Kyiv. Europeans are working to fill the US void – Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Lithuania and the United Kingdom announced new aid packages this week. After all, Europeans themselves play a key role in one of Ukraine’s main political priorities, membership in the European Union. Thus, Charles Michael’s visit comes less than a month before a European summit where the twenty-seven nations are to consider the Commission’s proposal to open accession negotiations with Ukraine. The Belgian must lead these discussions, which promise to be complex.

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“It’s a tough European summit”, immediately alerts the President of the European Council. Reading between the lines, we also understand that it will be a matter of the twenty-seventh postponement of this decision to Volodymyr Zelensky on the expansion of their Union. The commission gave Ukraine until March to finalize the reforms needed to actually start discussions. “I was surprised by this deadline. It will be taken into account by member states in their reflection.Charles Michael believes in a veiled criticism of the Commission’s proposal.

Governments and heads of government are hoping to agree on 50 billion euros in aid to Ukraine in the 2021-2027 European budget. A reassuring fact: discussions are likely to stumble on other budget increases proposed in this context by the Commission, such as migration management (15 billion euros). There is a general consensus on helping Kyiv. But when Berlin and other Western European capitals are asked to provide these funds in the form of loans to Ukrainians, the Baltic states offer mainly grants. Meanwhile, Hungary threatens to oppose almost everything. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is increasingly hostile toward Q and complacent toward Russia.

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“I’m working to win. I’m not ready to fail in December” In order to help the twenty-seven find consensus on these two issues, Charles Michael insists, he points out that, whatever happens, this meeting. “Will not be the end of the European process” To support kyiv.

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