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'Ukraine can count on EU,' bloc's leaders tell new president Zelensky

'Ukraine can count on EU,' bloc's leaders tell new president Zelensky
By Rachael Kennedy, Sandrine Amiel
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A summit in Kiev with EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker offers a chance for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to prove he is a serious statesman, the Atlantic Council's Peter Dickinson told Euronews.


"Ukraine can count on the EU," European Council President Donald Tusk told country's new leader Volodymyr Zelensky at a summit in Kiev intended to boost bilateral cooperation.

The summit focused on the country's fight against corruption and the continued battle against Russian-backed forces in the east.

"Let me again reaffirm EU’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. We do not and will not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sebastopol by Russia," Tusk said at the summit's news conference.

You can watch the press conference again by clicking on the player below

But new sanctions are very unlikely, Tusk said, considering that the EU just extended them for another six months a few weeks ago.

Tusk, who visited eastern Ukraine ahead of the summit, said he witnessed 'a lot of suffering' in the annexed territory and that the EU was willing to provide support to alleviate it.

The bloc's leaders announced they would boost financial backing to Kiev.

“Today we signed agreements for new projects worth €119m to further boost Ukraine’s reform efforts. The support to Ukraine now tops €15bn since 2014 and remains unwavering,” EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

'An opportunity for Zelensky to prove himself a statesman'

The Ukraine-EU summit is the 21st of its type, but is the first for President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was elected in March.

"This will be an opportunity for [Zelensky] to showcase his more serious side," Peter Dickinson, a research fellow at the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Centre, told Euronews ahead of the summit.

In the country's election earlier this year, Zelensky appeared as the frontrunner, yet, an unusual candidate for president, considering his total lack of experience on the political stage.

He was previously best known for his comedy and acting career, in which he played the part of the Ukrainian leader in a television show.

"There are questions about his ability as a statesman," Dickinson added. But this week's summit is "a chance for him to show he can operate at that level."

Dickinson said Zelensky would likely look to his guests, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, on Monday for reassurances that the EU stands alongside Ukraine in defiance against Russia.

This reassurance is necessary for Ukraine, he said, following the Council of Europe's decision last week to reinstate Russia with full voting rights.

Pointing out that no such steps had been laid out recently, Dickinson said it would be good for a further "carrot" to be instigated.

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