Zelenskyy’s personal plea helped speed up EU aid to Ukraine – POLITICO

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It was then that a diplomatic mantra – “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” – really made a huge difference.

A personal appeal by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was addressed directly to EU heads of state and governments via video link as the leaders met at an emergency summit in Brussels on Wednesday night. The last five weeks are now believed to be the key intervention that has led to a staggering increase in Western support, including weapons, officials and diplomats said.

Even after Zelenskyy’s speech, some EU leaders were reluctant to impose the most drastic economic sanctions, cutting Russia off from the SWIFT international payment system. Instead, they opted for a step-by-step approach.

But over the next 48 hours, with Ukrainian troops fiercely resisting the Russian invasion, the EU turned to the vanguard of action against Russia by imposing individual sanctions on the President. Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Then, EU leaders assembled major commitments on arms and other assistance to Ukraine, which led to a historic shift by Germany to end its longstanding policy of not sending weapons into the country. conflict areas.

In retrospect, as new details of Zelenskyy’s appeal have emerged, his remarks are now seen as a unique turning point in persuading heads of state and government in the Council of Europe to support more supportive, telling them he was a personal target for the assassination and that that might be the last time he spoke to them.

“It was a very emotional intervention,” said a senior EU official who watched the Ukrainian president’s presentation. “It was extremely professional, but I think President Zelenskyy was trying to make an emotional connection with the leaders on the basis of the dire situation his country is facing.”

“He’s talked about how he’s Russia’s No. 1 target and he feels this might be the last time he can speak to multiple leaders privately,” the official said. “He talked about the threat his family faced. And I think the mind is focused. And, in my humble opinion, it was a historic moment. It was a defining moment, one of the things that I think strengthened the leaders’ resolve to stay united. ”

An EU diplomat confirmed that Zelenskyy had told EU heads his own life was at stake, and in private, some leaders have told aides or associates they were moved before the presentation.

The official added, “It also gives additional impetus to go further, immediately, the next day with the addition of President Putin and Minister Lavrov, to the sanctions list. Then, as the situation escalated, it turned into a determination to go beyond what was initially conceived.”

Since being invaded and bombed by Russia, Zelenskyy, a former comedian and television and film actor, has earned widespread acclaim as a symbol of his determination and resilience. his country. He has posted videos of himself in his office and on the streets of the capital Kyiv, unshaven and in military uniform, to provide updates on their war effort and refute misinformation. from which he escaped. The posts have been shared tens of millions of times.

The danger of Zelenskyy’s situation in the capital being hit by rockets was evident in a number of his other conversations with EU leaders, including Council President Charles Michel, who spoke invited Zelenskyy to speak directly at the emergency summit.

Zelenskyy and Michel spoke daily, with the senior official adding: “On Friday, at one point, the president had to cut the call short, he said ‘Charles Charles Charles, I have to stop. We are being shot. “

Jacopo Barigazzi contributed reporting.

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