Back from kyiv, Czech PM says Ukraine needs more weapons

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia returned safely to central Europe on Wednesday after traveling to Kyiv to show their support for Ukraine as it defends itself against the Russian military invasion.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has called on as many countries as possible to quickly equip Ukraine with large quantities of weapons so that the country can continue to fight Russian forces trying to take the capital and other cities.

“We have to realize that (the Ukrainians) are also fighting for our independence, for our freedom and we have to support them,” Fiala said after returning to Prague. “That’s why we went there, to show them that they are not alone.”


He and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland and Prime Minister Janez Jansa of Slovenia met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during their trip to Kyiv on Tuesday when heavy Russian shelling targeted the city and its suburbs.

They continued the hour-long train journey despite concerns about the risks to their safety as they passed through a war zone, hoping to inspire more courageous international support for Ukraine. Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski – the leader of the ruling Conservative party and his country’s most powerful politician – also made the trip.

The Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia are members of the European Union and NATO. Although claiming their trip was an EU mission, officials in Brussels presented it as something the three leaders had undertaken on their own.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said it was good for Western allies to engage closely with Zelenskyy, but he did not clearly endorse the visit to Kyiv.

At home, prime ministers have received much praise for traveling to a country at war. Some criticized the leaders for taking a risky trip that was largely symbolic and lacked a clear international mandate.

For his part, Zelenskyy expressed his appreciation for the show of support from EU members, which he hopes Ukraine can one day join.

The leaders returned safely by train to Poland on Wednesday morning. They then had a phone conversation with European Council President Charles Michel, according to Fiala. He tweeted a picture of the three prime ministers sitting around a phone as they briefed Michel on the “results of the mission to Kyiv”.

In Brussels, a spokesman for the EU executive said that “solidarity is expressed in different ways through different channels”.

“Our solidarity with Ukraine is absolute. It has been repeated many times. But more importantly, it is extremely tangible,” European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said, citing funding from the bloc of 27 for refugees and military equipment. “And I can assure you that this solidarity is very well understood by the Ukrainian authorities”.

At a Tuesday night press conference in Kyiv, Kaczynski said he believed a NATO peacekeeping mission was needed in Ukraine, or “possibly a larger international structure, but a mission that will also be able to defend themselves and who will operate in Ukraine”.

The remark sparked discussion in Poland on Wednesday, with some commentators saying the prospect could carry the risk of dragging NATO into a war with Russia.

Morawiecki’s chief of staff, Michal Dworczyk, said neither Poland nor anyone else was talking about getting involved in the war, which reached its 21st day on Wednesday.

The government in Warsaw was “appealing not only to Europe but to the whole free world, to find a solution that would realistically have the ability to quell Russian aggression”, Dworczyk told Polish Radio 24. .

Fiala, the Czech leader, acknowledged that NATO was not ready to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which Ukraine demanded. But he said the Ukrainians would be able to enforce the no-fly zone on their own if they had enough weapons and anti-aircraft missiles.

In Slovenia, where Jansa’s right-wing SDS party faces parliamentary elections on April 24 amid declining popularity, some have called Lyiv’s trip a publicity stunt.

The Ukrainian crisis “is useful to Jansa to restore its image with its voters and divert attention from national political debates”, declared the independent newspaper Vecer in a commentary published on Wednesday.

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Janicek reported from Prague. Raf Casert in Brussels and Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia contributed to this report.

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Follow all AP stories about Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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