Moldova president presses NATO leaders for Ukraine

Moldova president presses NATO leaders for Ukraine

BULBOACA, Moldova - June 1 Reuters President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pressed his case for Ukraine to be part of the NATO military alliance as he joined European leaders on Thursday in Moldova close to his nation's border ahead of an expected counter-offensive against Russia's invasion.

On Saturday, Zelenskyy, president of Moldova, voiced calls for Western fighter jets and said his government would prepare a future meeting to discuss Ukrainian peace proposals.

The summit of the EU s 27 member states and 20 European nations was taking place a castle deep in Moldovan wine country, just 20 km away from Ukraine territory and 12 miles from the Russian-backed breakaway region of Transdniestria.

The nation of 2.5 million people was faced with a security and organizational challenge, as it seeks a way to EU membership while being wary of Russia.

We support Moldova and its people who are integrating into the EU, Zelenskyy said. You have supported our people and our refugees who fled in the first days of the war, and we will never forget it. Ukraine has agreed to join NATO. Sandu said she supported Ukraine's peace efforts and also wanted talks for Moldova's EU entry to move as fast as possible.

At a separate meeting of NATO ministers in Oslo, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia could not veto Ukraine's membership, though Germany said it would not be possible while Ukraine was at war.

NATO Airborne Warning and Control Systems surveillance aircraft AWACS watched the skies over the summit venue in Moldova. In Moldova, missile debris from the war in Ukraine has been found several times since Russia invaded 15 months ago.

The FSB head of Russia's FSB security service said the West was pushing Moldova to participate in the Ukraine conflict.

With Kyiv promising to counter-offensive using recently acquired Western weapons to try to drive out Russian occupiers, much of the summit's focus will be on Ukraine.

The presence of these leaders in our country is a clear message that Moldova is not alone and neither is our neighbor Ukraine, which has been standing against the barbaric invasion of Russia for a year and three months, Sandu said.

The EU aims to use the summit to tackle tensions in northern Kosovo between the ruling ethnic Albanian majority and minority Serbs, which have flared into violence in recent days, prompting NATO to deploy 700 more peacekeepers.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Wednesday he had asked Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti in Slovakia to play his part in defusing the crisis and hoped to convey the same message to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Moldova.

The summit will also touch on a variety of strategic issues, such as energy, cybersecurity, and migration.

It also offers an opportunity to address other frictions in Europe, such as between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which leaders will hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and EU officials.

Moldova, along with Ukraine, applied to the EU last year, and Chisinau is planning to use the summit to highlight reforms and convince leaders to open accession talks.

As a result of the conflict, Romania has taken in more Ukrainian refugees per capita than any other country, just as food and energy prices have skyrocketed as a result of the conflict.

Russia has accused the government of trying to destabilize the mainly Romanian-speaking country by its influence over the separatist movement in its mainly Russian-speaking, breakaway Transdniestria region.