Zelenskiy names ‘three victories’ Ukraine needs on international front

By Anna Voitenko

KYIV (Reuters) -President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday said that Ukraine needed to secure three key “victories” abroad, including the approval of major aid packages from the U.S. Congress and the European Union, and a formal start of accession talks to join the EU.

Zelenskiy also announced the latest dismissals in the military, four deputy commanders in the national guard, but gave no reasons for their removal. The president and other officials have vowed to make the military’s operations more efficient and responsive to the needs of servicemen.

Twenty months into Russia’s full-scale invasion, fatigue has crept into the West’s relations with Kyiv, which heavily relies on its allies for military, economic and humanitarian aid to battle on against the Kremlin’s troops.

“We need three victories. The first one is the victory with U.S. Congress. It’s a challenge, it’s not easy, but Ukraine is doing everything,” Zelenskiy told a news conference in Kyiv.

President Joe Biden asked Congress to approve many billions of dollars in assistance for Ukraine last month, but Kyiv’s funding was omitted from a stop-gap spending bill passed last week, raising concerns it may not get through.

A vocal bloc of Republicans oppose sending more aid to Ukraine. Opponents have said U.S. taxpayer money should be spent at home, but a majority of Republicans and Democrats in Congress still support supplying aid.

Zelenskiy also zeroed in on a 50 billion euro package from the European Union that was announced earlier for Ukraine, but has not yet been approved and is so far opposed by Hungary.

“The second is we need the help from the EU on the 50 billion euro package,” the Ukrainian leader said. “And the third is to open a dialogue about our future membership.”

Kyiv hopes the European Union’s members will agree at a summit on Dec. 14-15 to formally launch the long process of talks for Kyiv to join the bloc, a move which Zelenskiy said would be good for Ukrainian morale.

Zelenskiy made the comments at a news conference alongside Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics, who said he was sure the EU aid package would pass, though he added that it could take longer than expected.

The dismissal of the four deputy commanders was made public by presidential decrees — along with three new appointments. No reasons were given for any of the moves.

Zelenskiy this week announced the removal of the commander of Ukraine’s medical forces, saying “a new level of medical support” was needed for Ukraine’s servicemen.

A Ukrainian news outlet had suggested earlier this month that her dismissal was imminent along with others.

(Additional reporting by Olena Harmash; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Kirsten Donovan, Ron Popeski and Leslie Adler)