European allies vow more support for Kyiv at security meet

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European allies vow more support for Kyiv at security meet
French President Emmanuel Macron (L), Poland's President Andrzej Duda (C) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) make a statement after their meeting during the Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich. Photo: Odd ANDERSEN/AFP

European powers on Friday vowed to intensify support for Ukraine as it battles to repel Russia, with France's president underlining at a major security conference that the time was not ripe for talks with Moscow.


Days ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia sending its forces into Ukraine, Moscow chalked up a small gain in its grinding offensive.

The head of Russian mercenary group Wagner claimed the capture of a village near Bakhmut -- the eastern city that is the scene of the longest and bloodiest battle of Moscow's offensive.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky insisted that lives were at stake as he opened the Munich Security Conference with an impassioned plea for allies to speed up support.

"We need speed -- speed of our agreements, speed of our delivery... speed of decisions to limit Russian potential," he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron joined in the call for allies to "intensify our support" for Ukraine to aid its forces in launching a counter-offensive.


"It is not the time for dialogue because we have a Russia which has chosen war, which has chosen to intensify the war, and which has chosen to go as far as committing war crimes and to attacking civilian infrastructure," he said.

While insisting he did not want to see a drawn-out war, he said France was ready for a "prolonged conflict".

Chancellor Olaf Scholz meanwhile insisted that German support was "designed to last", and urged allies to speed up deliveries of heavy tanks promised to Ukraine.

Scholz tank turnaround

The conference in Munich is also being attended by US Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, China's top diplomat Wang Yi and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Russian delegates including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was a regular attendee in the past, were not invited.

Scholz's pleas for allies to step up deliveries of tanks underlined a recent reversal of his political fortunes.

Up until last month, he was facing accusations of foot-dragging over his reluctance to permit delivery of the German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine, despite increasing pressure from Kyiv.

Berlin finally agreed to allow the armaments, widely used in Europe, to be sent to Ukraine, and pledged to deliver some of the most modern ones from its military stocks.

Under German law, Berlin must give permission for other countries that use the tanks to re-export them. However, it is now struggling to persuade allies to follow suit.

"Those who can send such battle tanks should really do so now," Scholz told the conference, where he said he would be "intensively campaigning" to get allies to move on the issue.

'Need Ukraine in EU'

Scholz and Macron later held talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda on the sidelines, with the German leader hailing the "good cooperation" between the trio in providing support for Ukraine.

In his address, Zelensky reiterated his ambitions for Ukraine to join the European Union and NATO. Ukraine was recently granted candidate status for the EU, although full membership is a long way off.


Speaking at a panel discussion, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki backed Ukraine's drive to join the bloc and said the "normal route to accession" should be abandoned given Kyiv's "extraordinary" position.

"We need Ukraine as part of the European Union and as part of NATO eventually as well. From our point of view the quicker the better," he said.

US-China ties are also in focus at the gathering, with tensions sky-high after Washington shot down an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon over US territory.

With high-level US and Chinese delegations in town, there has been speculation of talks on the sidelines to ease tensions.

The huge white balloon from China was spotted over a series of secret nuclear weapons sites earlier this month, before being shot down just off the eastern US coast.

The incident prompted a diplomatic rift, with Blinken cancelling a rare China visit. Beijing, however, says the balloon was just a stray weather research craft.


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