Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

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Zelensky is seen in Brussels with Charles Michel, right, president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, left, President of the European Commission on Thursday.
Zelensky is seen in Brussels with Charles Michel, right, president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, left, President of the European Commission on Thursday. ( Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s trip to meet with European world leaders this week included deeply emotional appeals and careful statesmanship.

Zelensky campaigned for his nation’s priorities, including securing more military firepower from allies and Ukraine’s long-sought accession to the European Union.

Here are some of the major takeaways from the president’s wartime trip abroad:

A focus on fighter jets: Now that Kyiv has secured pledges for more than 300 modern battle tanks, Zelensky is pushing for another potent addition to his arsenal: Western fighter jets.

That started with the Ukrainian leader’s surprise visit to London, which came a day before his Thursday trip to Brussels to meet with the EU Council. Zelensky presented the speaker of the House of Commons with the helmet of a fighter pilot, signed with a message: “We have freedom. Give us wings to protect it.”

Ukraine’s allies have expressed varying levels of openness to delivering the aircraft, including Poland, which has pledged to send the planes if other countries do, too. France and the Netherlands are among the nations that have said they’re considering the request.

Zelensky expressed optimism about the pitch, but behind closed doors, he is likely being warned that without a fully functioning air defense system, NATO’s expensive fighter jets could be easy prey for the Russians, and that any fighter jet commitment needs to be sequenced with better air defense.

A pitch to join the EU: Zelensky made a heartfelt appeal to lawmakers in Brussels to allow his country to become part of the European Union, insisting that Europe is Ukraine’s “home.”

During an address to the European Parliament, Zelensky said his country and the EU share the same values, and that the “European standard of life” and the “European rules of life” are “when the law rules.”

“This is our Europe, these are our rules, this is our way of life. And for Ukraine, it’s a way home, a way to its home,” Zelensky said, referencing Ukraine’s aim to join the EU.

Ukraine has been given candidate status – a significant step on the path to full EU membership – but the process of admission to the alliance takes about five years on average. Some eastern European countries have waited as long as 10 years.

Allies’ reception: Zelensky received a standing ovation as he walked into the chamber of the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday. 

“We have your back,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola told Zelensky as she introduced him for his address. “Freedom will prevail.”

Other world leaders reiterated their support for the Ukrainian cause this week after holding bilateral meetings with Zelensky, from the Dutch prime minister to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The precise results of the president’s diplomatic blitz remain to be seen.

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