Ukraine live briefing: E.U. leaders in Kyiv make no promises for membership; U.S. announces $2.17B in aid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen write on a Ukrainian flag during a summit in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Thursday. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP)
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Any hopes that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s summit with European Union leaders in Kyiv would deliver fast-track E.U. accession for Ukraine were dashed Friday. In a joint statement, the leaders in attendance offered “commitment to further deepening our relationship” but no further action. In his nightly address Friday, Zelensky said, “There is an understanding that it is possible to start negotiations on Ukraine’s membership in the European Union this year.”

Air raid sirens were heard in Kyiv early Friday ahead of the meeting and again after the meeting, which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described as proof that the E.U. “stands by Ukraine as firmly as ever.”

The United States will provide Ukraine with longer range rocket artillery that will double the reach of its current munitions, the Pentagon said Friday. The move, which would increase the potential for Ukraine to strike Russian territory, signals a relationship of trust between Kyiv and Washington, which has recently demonstrated less reluctance to provide arms once thought to carry too great a risk of escalation between the West and Russia.

Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • A 33-year-old U.S. citizen and former U.S. marine was killed Thursday in an explosion in Bakhmut. Peter Reed was the founder of the nongovernmental group Global Response Medicine and in January became the Ukraine director of Global Outreach Doctors, a U.S.-based NGO, where he focused on “trauma work and civilian evacuations.” GRM confirmed his death in a statement, calling Reed the “bedrock” of the organization and describing his loss a “stark reminder of the perils rescue and aid workers face in conflict zones.”
  • The E.U. will provide Ukrainians with 35 million LED lightbulbs, von der Leyen announced on Twitter. Every kilowatt “of energy saved is precious to counter Russia’s energy war,” she said. The E.U. also announced an aid package of 25 million euros to support humanitarian demining work but made no mention of the fighter jets Ukrainian officials have called for in recent weeks. Earlier this week, President Biden rejected these requests and said the United States would not send the F-16s.
  • A center for the prosecution of the crime of aggression in Ukraine will be established in The Hague, von der Leyen also said. The international body will work closely with the joint investigation teams supported by the E.U. Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, she told a news conference Thursday with Zelensky. The crime of aggression is notoriously difficult to prosecute, and Ukraine has expressed its preference for establishing a special tribunal.
  • Germany has issued an export license for Leopard 1 tanks to be sent to Ukraine, German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said Friday, without providing details. Last week, Germany announced plans to send 14 of its more-modern Leopard 2 tanks and allow European countries to send theirs, as Washington pledged to give Ukraine 31 M1 Abrams tanks. The Leopard 2 is bigger, faster and more powerful than the Leopard 1, which was produced between 1965 and 1979.
  • Ukraine’s prosecutor general is pressing criminal charges against the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, whose private military forces are fighting alongside the Russian army. The statement said prosecutors interrogated two Wagner fighters in Europe. Last month, the United States designated the group a “transnational criminal organization.” Here’s what you need to know about the Wagner Group and what it’s doing in Ukraine.

2. Battlefield updates

  • “Russia will use the fuller potential it has to respond” to a new influx of Western weapons to Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier that “the longer the range of weapons supplied to the Kyiv regime, the further we will have to drive them away.”
  • British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Ukrainian pilots would need “months if not years” of training if Western fighter jets were sent to Ukraine. “We need to make sure that they can use what they are given,” he said Thursday in a British television interview.

3. Global impact

  • Norway will give Ukraine more aid after earning higher profits from oil exports, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told lawmakers on Thursday, without specifying the size of the package. Norway has benefited from increased demand for energy supplies from European countries that have sought to reduce their reliance on Russian gas.
  • Poland expects more than 30 countries to oppose the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the 2024 Olympics, its sports and tourism minister told Reuters.

4. From our correspondents

A new wave of Western weapons explained: From tanks to air defense systems, U.S.- and European-made weapons are expected to complement or replace the largely Soviet-era technology in use by Ukrainian forces.

The new surge of increasingly elaborate weapons from Western countries could change the balance on the battlefield in Ukraine as Kyiv’s major backers agree to successive requests that once made them balk. Take a closer look at the tanks the United States and European allies are sending to Ukraine.

Western allies agreed in January to step up weapons supplies to Ukraine, including U.S. M1A2 Abrams tanks and German Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks. (Video: Reuters)

David L. Stern, Alex Horton and Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.