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Ukraine“s Zelenskiy hails ties as Poland vows further support

2023-04-05T18:51:22Z

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited neighbouring Poland on Wednesday and thanked the country for its “historic” help, saying it should become a key partner in the vast reconstruction effort needed once Russia’s invasion ends.

Warsaw has positioned itself as one of Kyiv’s staunchest allies, playing a leading role in persuading sometimes reluctant allies to provide it with heavy weaponry, much of it supplied through Poland. On Wednesday, President Andrzej Duda said Poland would supply Ukraine with a total of 14 MiG-29 fighter jets.

“You have stood shoulder to shoulder with us, and we are grateful for it,” Zelenskiy said after receiving the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest honour, from his Polish counterpart. “I believe that these are historic relations, a historic result, and historic strength between our countries.”

Speaking later in front of crowds at Warsaw’s Royal Castle, where President Joe Biden promised “unwavering” U.S. support for Kyiv only weeks ago, Duda said Poland and other allies needed to provide more economic, military and humanitarian support.

“There is still a long way to go before the end of the war,” he said. “We owe it to the victims of aggression.”

Addressing the same supporters, many of whom waved Ukrainian flags, Zelenskiy predicted Poland would help form a coalition of Western powers to supply warplanes to Ukraine, just as it did with battle tanks.

“When the battle requires artillery, it should be provided. When victory needs tanks, their roar should be heard on the front lines,” he said. “Because this is a battle for freedom and it is impossible to win partially.”

Zelenskiy signed a letter of intent with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on the transfer of equipment including 150 Rosomak armoured vehicles to Ukraine during a meeting in which the two discussed solutions to ease problems stemming from Ukrainian grain entering European markets and pushing down prices.

“We have found a way out. I believe that in the coming days and weeks we will finally resolve all issues as there cannot be any questions, any complications between such close partners and real friends as Poland and Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said.

“We discussed issues regarding our farmers, Polish farmers and Ukrainian farmers.”

Polish Agriculture Minister Henryk Kowalczk resigned on Wednesday as a result of the crisis.

Zelenskiy invited Polish businesses to come to Ukraine before the war ends to secure a better position on Ukrainian markets as well as in the country’s reconstruction drive.

The visit to Poland, which has taken in more than a million Ukrainian refugees over the past 13 months of war, comes as Ukraine plans to conduct a counter-offensive in the coming weeks or months to recapture land in its east and south from Russia.

Zelenskiy said on Wednesday the situation in the Ukrainian eastern city of Bakhmut was really difficult and that the “corresponding decisions” would be taken if Kyiv’s troops there risk being encircled by Russian forces.

“For me, the most important is not to lose our soldiers and of course if there is a moment of even hotter events and the danger we could lose our personnel because of encirclement – of course the corresponding correct decisions will be taken by generals there,” he said.

In addition to MiG-29 jets, Ukraine officials have also pressed for F-16 jet fighters to boost Kyiv’s ability to hit Russian missile units with U.S.-made rockets but Duda’s foreign policy adviser Marcin Przydacz said Poland would not decide any time soon on whether to send any.

The Polish public overwhelming supports Ukrainians in their war with Russia. An Ipsos poll said 82% of Poles think NATO and European Union countries should back Ukraine until it wins.

Asked what Zelenskiy’s visit meant to her, Ukrainian refugee Olena, 46, gave a thumbs up before bursting into tears.

“If it weren’t for him there would be no Ukraine by now,” she said while passing the presidential palace, adding that she was grateful to Poland for being able to stay and work in the country.

Related Galleries:

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and Polish first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska pose for a picture at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda speaks at the Royal Castle courtyard as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visits Warsaw, Poland, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska meet at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy meet at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Workers assemble a screen for the audience for the visit of Ukraininan President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in front of the Royal Castle in the Old Town in Warsaw, Poland, April 4, 2023. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visits the village of Yahidne, where hundreds of local residents spent a month in a school basement during Russia’s attack on Chernihiv region, on the first anniversary of its liberation, in Yahidne, Chernihiv region, Ukraine April 3, 2023. REUTERS/Alina Yarysh


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