France “will train and equip” several Ukrainian battalions and provide them with “tens of armored vehicles and light tanks,” Emmanuel Macron and Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced late Sunday.
The news came after Ukraine’s president traveled to Paris and had a three-hour dinner with his French counterpart (including one hour alone, without advisers) as part of a tour of European capitals designed to shore up support among Kyiv’s allies.
“In the coming weeks, France will train and equip several battalions with tens of armored vehicles and light tanks, including AMX-10RCs,” according to a joint statement issued by both France and Ukraine after the dinner. France is also “focusing its effort in supporting Ukraine’s air defense capacities.” Macron and Zelenskyy also called for new sanctions against Russia.
Macron is also expected to make more announcements on Ukraine on Monday.
“What Ukraine needs is combat equipment, armoured vehicles, tanks, artillery,” an Elysée official said. “Zelenskyy also expressed the need to protect the skies from drone or missiles attacks … France will continue to deliver … More of the most modern systems will be offered.”
But on the question of whether Paris would send Ukraine the fighter jets it has been asking for, the French official said: “That discussion is a bit premature” due to the focus on land operation and air defenses.
As he arrived in France, Zelenskyy said: “With each visit, the defensive and offensive capabilities of Ukraine increase.” He added: “The connection with Europe is getting stronger, and the pressure on Russia is increasing. I will meet my friend Emmanuel. Let’s discuss the most important points of bilateral relations.”
Agence-France Presse and a handful of other outlets first reported on Sunday that French President Emmanuel Macron would receive Zelenskyy in the evening and the two leaders will hold talks over dinner ahead of a possible joint announcement.
The Ukrainian president earlier Sunday was in Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who confirmed that his country would send a €2.7 billion package of military aid to support Ukraine.
“Now is the time for us to determine the end of the war already this year, we can make the aggressor’s defeat irreversible already this year,” Zelenskyy said at a press conference with Scholz.
On Saturday, Zelenskyy met with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Rome, thanking her for “helping to save lives” by continuing to provide aid to Kyiv. He also sat down for an audience with Pope Francis, who told the Ukrainian leader that he is “praying for peace.”
The flurry of diplomatic visits comes as Ukraine calls on the West to provide its armed forces with more heavy weaponry and fighter jets to support a long-awaited counteroffensive and help liberate Russian-occupied territory in the east of the country.
“We are working on the creation of a coalition of combat aircraft,” Zelenskyy said on Sunday, as fierce battles continued to rage near the contested town of Bakhmut, where the two sides have been locked in a bloody stalemate for weeks.
According to Kyiv, its troops have made a series of gains there in recent days, and Zelenskyy has pledged to take back swathes of territory currently held by Russian forces, while adding that he is open to peace talks on Ukraine’s terms.
Source : POLITICO