Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez pledged the EU's "unequivocal" support for Ukraine in Kyiv on Saturday as Spain assumed presidency of the bloc, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hit out at foot-dragging over pilot training by "some" western nations.

Sixteen months into Russia's invasion, Ukraine says it is fighting "fierce" battles as part of its counteroffensive launched last month after weeks of anticipation. 

But both Zelensky and his commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny registered their frustration over the slow deliveries of weapons and lack of clarity over pilot training. 

Sanchez visited Kyiv on the first day of Spain's EU presidency, saying this "demonstrates a clear and unequivocal political commitment" to Ukraine's bid to join the 27-nation bloc.

It came ahead of a key NATO summit in Vilnius later this month that is expected to map out the future relationship between Ukraine and the Western military alliance.

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"In the next few months, we will make progress on issues that are essential for the future of the European Union, yet Ukraine is going to be at the centre of all our debates," Sanchez told reporters during a joint news conference.

He said the European Commission had recently issued an interim assessment on the status of Ukraine's candidacy to join the bloc. "The report is positive and shows significant progress," Sanchez added.

Sanchez and Zelensky released a joint declaration stating that Ukraine's candidacy will be a priority for Spain's EU presidency. The declaration also said that "Spain supports strengthening NATO's partnership with Ukraine, including through the creation of a NATO-Ukraine Council."

Poland to Create Council on Cooperation with Ukraine
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Poland to Create Council on Cooperation with Ukraine

A Polish politician said the new council would assist in the reconstruction of Ukraine and include representatives from the science, business and government sectors.

Ukraine received EU candidacy status a year ago and is hoping to begin formal negotiations this year on what it needs to do to firm up its membership bid. 

Kyiv also said this week that the time had come for NATO to clarify its stance on Ukraine's membership.

Zelensky thanked Sanchez for his visit and his support. 

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"It is extremely symbolic that this visit takes place on the very first day of the Spanish presidency of the EU," he tweeted.

But the Ukrainian president sounded testy when a journalist asked him about Western plans to send F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

"I have the same questions you just asked. The same questions to our esteemed partners," he said.

"Do they have an understanding of when Ukraine can get the F-16?" he said. "There is no schedule of training missions. I believe that some partners are dragging their feet. Why are they doing it? I don't know."

Ukrainian forces have claimed limited gains in a highly touted counteroffensive to win back territory that Russia captured after launching its full-scale offensive in February last year.

- 'Pisses me off' - 

Ukraine's military commander-in-chief Zaluzhny also expressed frustration, saying in an interview published Friday that his country's counteroffensive plans have been limited by the lack of adequate firepower, from modern fighter jets to artillery ammunition.

Zaluzhny told The Washington Post he was frustrated by the slow deliveries of promised weaponry from the West.

It "pisses me off" that some in the West complain about the slow start and progress to the long-awaited push against Russian occupying forces in the country's south, he said.

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Zaluzhny said his Western supporters would not themselves launch an offensive without air superiority, but Ukraine is still awaiting F-16 fighters promised by its allies.

"I do not need 120 planes. I'm not going to threaten the whole world. A very limited number would be enough," he told the newspaper.

He also complained he has a fraction of the artillery shells that Russia is firing.

- 'A little slow' -

Zaluzhny said he was in constant contact with Western partners, such as Pentagon Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley, who are keenly aware of his needs.

But Milley alone can't make the decision, and the delays are deadly, Zaluzhny said.

"It's just that while that decision is being made, in the obvious situation, a lot of people die every day -- a lot. Just because no decision has been made yet."

Speaking later Friday in Washington, Milley said the United States and allies were working hard to supply Ukraine. 

"We are giving them as much help as humanly possible," he said.

Milley said the United States was still in talks on providing Ukraine with F-16s and ATACMS, precision missiles that could more than double the range Ukraine's forces are able to target.

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He acknowledged that some people had expressed impatience with the pace of the counteroffensive.

"Sure, it goes a little slow but that is part of the nature of war," he said. 

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Comments (3)

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dfarning
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This appears to be a very misleading headline. Zelensky did not slam anyone. He merely expressed concern or frustration in a professional manner during a speech.

Please report the news. Creating unnecessary political drama with clickbait headlines is counterproductive.

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David
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Ad nauseam, Western “leaders” have been repeatedly mistaken about the risks of Russian over reaction to the delivery of new types of weapon systems to Ukraine. That’s why they have tried to mitigate perceived risks by both delaying and limiting quantities of new weapons delivered to Ukraine. The validity of this approach has been proven utterly wrong numerous times, at great extra cost to Ukraine in lives lost, avoidable infrastructure loss, avoidable economic damage, and avoidable military losses.
It’s time to move past clearly invalid methods of risk management masquerading as wisdom and restraint, and accelerate military aid to Ukraine to the level that allows ejection of Russian forces within 9 months.
The de-facto frontline for all EU counties is Ukraine.
No point stocking “sufficient” weapons in other NATO counties if the Russians can be defeated in Ukraine.
Ukraine needs F16 with AMRAAM and AGM 88 to keep Russian AirPower at bay in areas where they counter attack. It should be top priority to deliver within 4 months at least 24 fighters equipped for air to air combat and radar suppression. The rest of the training and weapons for air to ground attack can come later.

dfarning
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@David, I would encourage moving away from the redline narrative. While the 'big red line' is commonly cited in the media and by pundits looking for a sound bite, the reality is much more boring.

Cost, availability, logistics, and what weapons systems can help the UAF evolve into an effective fighting force capable of large-scale offensives while incentivizing Ukraine to evolve into a successful nation-state that will be a long-term effective ally for the EU, NATO, and the West.

Soldiers and armies, like athletes or other highly skilled people, don't just wake up one day being experts in their field. It takes years of training, usually under skilled teachers and coaches, to achieve a high level of performance.

UAF is currently going through that learning process. As they become more proficient, the weapon systems the West provides increase in complexity.

I don't mean this to diminish the competition among Westen donors to give as little as they can while reaping the greatest political gain. An interesting example is the current 'discussion' about where to hold the pilot training. Most EU/NATO nations want to hold pilot training in their country.

Locating a US Airforce training center/Airbase in a country is a cash cow. A couple thousand skilled workers relocating to an area creates a significant cash inflow. As importantly, the country receives the defense benefit of a couple of dozen capable fighters located in their country without paying for them.

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Guermo
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Pedro Sanchez: Wasn’t that the name of one of the Mexican gang leaders in an old Clint Eastwood spaghetti western?

Natan kefyalew
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@Guermo, Ukraine will win slava ukraini

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