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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on May 14 flew to Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, extending a tour of European capitals after accepting the Charlemagne Prize at a ceremony in Aachen, Germany. He next heads to London on May 15.
Zelenskiy and Macron held talks over dinner that included building up Ukraine’s arsenal and the need for an ad hoc tribunal for prosecuting atrocities “committed in connection with Russia’s war of aggression.”
Macron’s office said France will supply Ukraine with armor but demurred on sending much-coveted fighter jets.
Zelenskiy said earlier it was “great honor” to receive the prize on behalf of the Ukrainian people, who have been fighting for their freedom and the values of Europe.
Zelenskiy, who was showered with accolades before he accepted the prize, said every Ukrainian “would deserve to stand here.”
In his acceptance speech, he stressed that Ukraine wanted nothing more than peace but that this could only be achieved with victory in the conflict, which he said would decide the fate of Europe.
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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz thanked Zelenskiy for defending European values and spoke the words “the president is here. We are all here” in Ukrainian, quoting Zelenskiy after the invasion began in February 2022 as he made it clear that the Ukrainian people would not yield to Russia’s violence.
“Rarely in history have such brief words had such a great effect,” Scholz said.
“Europe owes a lot to the Ukrainian people and personally to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy,” he added. “We stand together! We belong together! And our story will continue together.”
Scholz also pledged Germany’s “full support” to Ukraine on its journey to become a member of the European Union.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hailed Zelenskiy as “the most outstanding leader on an international stage in the 21st century,” while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian people were paying with their blood and their lives as they fight for freedom, humanity, and peace.
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the recipient of the award last year, was also present at the ceremony. She said it was an honor to meet Zelenskiy.
“We stand united with Ukraine for freedom and for democracy,” Tsikhanouskaya said on Twitter.
Zelenskiy says he will travel to London on May 15 to hold talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“Today – London. The UK is a leader when it comes to expanding our capabilities on the ground and in the air. This cooperation will continue today,” Zelenskiy said on Telegram. “I will meet my friend Rishi. We will conduct substantive negotiations face-to-face and in delegations.”
Earlier in Berlin, Zelenskiy thanked Germany for its “powerful support” after Berlin pledged a 2.7 billion-euro ($3 billion) package of arms and discussed his country’s planned counteroffensive with Scholz.
The military package includes 20 Marder infantry fighting vehicles, 30 Leopard 1 tanks, 15 Gepard antiaircraft tanks, 200 reconnaissance drones, four additional Iris-T antiaircraft systems including ammunition, additional artillery ammunition and more than 200 armored combat and logistics vehicles.
Ukraine is preparing to liberate occupied areas but will not attack Russia, Zelenskiy said in response to a question about a report by The Washington Post saying that he had privately asked Western partners for long-range weapons that could strike inside Russia.
“We have neither the time nor the strength [to attack Russia],” he said. “And we also don’t have weapons to spare, with which we could do this.”
The Washington Post on May 14 cited previously undisclosed documents from a U.S. intelligence leak suggesting that Zelenskiy had considered trying to capture areas in Russia for possible use as bargaining chips in peace negotiations. The United States and other Western governments have insisted that the weapons they provide must not be used to attack targets in Russia.
As Zelenskiy continues his tour of European capitals, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar provided an update on the situation on the battlefield.
Malyar said that Ukrainian forces had captured more than 10 Russian positions on the outskirts of Bakhmut and taken captive enemy soldiers of various units.
“Anyone who knows the real situation and is there now understands the gravity of what is happening,” Malyar added.
In a rare announcement of battlefield losses, the Russian Defense Ministry said on May 14 that two of its military commanders had been killed in eastern Ukraine, as Kyiv’s forces renewed efforts to take back territory near the embattled city of Bakhmut.
The ministry said in a statement that the commander of the 4th Motorized Rifle Brigade, Vyacheslav Makarov, and Yevgeny Brovko, deputy commander of the army corps for military-political work, had been killed in fighting to repel Ukrainian attacks.
It said that Makarov had been leading troops from the front line, and that Brovko “died heroically, suffering multiple shrapnel wounds.”
Ukraine’s General Staff said that the Russian military continued to focus its main efforts on areas around Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and Maryinka, and that about 30 combat clashes took place during the day on May 14.
It was not possible to independently verify Russia’s account of the battlefield situation.
Zelenskiy’s trip to Germany came after the Ukrainian leader received vocal support on May 13 from Italian leaders in Rome and at the Vatican, where Pope Francis called for “humanitarian gestures toward the most fragile persons, innocent victims of the conflict.”
On the war front, at least one Russian SU-34 warplane and a military Mi-8 helicopter had crashed in the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine, Russian emergency services were quoted by TASS news agency as saying, with several reports claiming the craft had been shot down.
Later, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that a Russian SU-35 jet and a second Mi-8 helicopter also crashed on May 13, but that report could not immediately be confirmed.
Ukraine did not comment on the reports. Kyiv normally does not comment directly on any incidents occurring within Russia’s borders.
If confirmed that the aircraft were shot down, it would represent a major coup for the Ukrainian military and an embarrassment for the Kremlin.
On the war front, Ukrainian forces intercepted and destroyed three missiles and 25 drones overnight in the latest aerial attack by Russian forces, Ukraine’s air force said on May 14.
Russia attacked “from different directions with Shahed attack drones, Kalibr missiles from ships in the Black Sea, [and] cruise missiles from Tu-95 strategic aircraft,” the air force said in a statement.
Russia has increased the number of missile and drone strikes since the beginning of May, which Ukrainian authorities attribute to Moscow’s fear of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Late on May 13, Russian missiles hit the western Ukrainian city of Ternopil, which is home to the electro-pop duo Tvorchi, this year’s contestants from Ukraine at the Eurovision 2023 Song Contest, local authorities said.
The attack came as the contest was under way in Britain because Ukraine, last year’s winners, could not host it due to the war.
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The strike hit warehouses owned by commercial enterprises and a religious organization, injuring two people, local officials in Ternopil reported on Telegram.
Melinda Simmons, Britain’s ambassador to Kyiv, praised Tvorchi for their Eurovision entry.
“The staging was brilliant. And poignant as their university home town of Ternopil was targeted by Russian missiles this evening,” Simmons tweeted.