EU chief Von der Leyen to visit Ukraine to stress support
BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen announced a visit to Kyiv later Wednesday to show the bloc’s support for Ukraine as it fights back against the Russian invasion.
Dressed in the colors of Ukraine, von der Leyen said in her State of the European Union address that the bloc would come to the aid of Ukraine by opening its seamless single market more to Ukrainian products and said she would “discuss all this with President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy.”
Von der Leyen’s trip symbolize the EU’s increasing opposition to Russia’s actions, which she called a war of “autocracy against democracy,” pushed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“And I stand here with the conviction that with the necessary courage and necessary solidarity, Putin will fail and Europe will prevail,” she told the plenary of the European parliament in Strasbourg, France.
As Ukraine is pushing Russian troops back in the east with a lightning fast counteroffensive, von der Leyen took heart. “We have seen in the last days the bravery of Ukrainians paying off,” she said.
At the same time, she claimed there were increasing indications that Russia was suffering ever more from EU and other international sanctions — and certainly more that some critics of Western sanctions acknowledge.
“Russia’s financial sector is on life support. We have cut off three-quarters of Russia’s banking sector from international markets,” she said, adding that almost 1,000 companies had left Russia.
She said car production fell by three-quarters compared to last year and that the national airline Aeroflot was forced to ground planes
because of lack of spare parts. “Russia’s industry is in tatters,” she sai.
The EU has already committed billions in aid to Ukraine since the Feb. 24 invasion by Russia. Von der Leyen announced Wednesday that the bloc will provide 100 million euros to build up schools destroyed during the invasion.