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Zelenskyy arrives in Brussels for surprise visit ahead of NATO meeting

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BRUSSELS — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and join a meeting of NATO defense ministers during a surprise visit to Brussels on Wednesday.

In comments to the press Wednesday morning, Zelenskyy, speaking alongside Stoltenberg, said his main message to NATO defense ministers would be on “priorities for Ukraine” for “how to survive during this next winter.”

“We need some support from the leaders. That’s why I’m here today,” Zelenskyy said. “It’s important there are long-distance missiles, or long-distance weapons … The problem: How to get it?”

Some NATO countries have reservations about providing Ukraine with long-range weapons, out of fears they could be used to attack Russian territory. But Zelenskyy reiterated that they are necessary to protect Ukraine’s “very concrete geographic points,” such as energy networks or transit lanes for grain exports.

Stoltenberg said Ukraine could expect more announcements to be made on Wednesday on NATO countries’ commitment to step up support for Kyiv.

“We need today to mobilize more support to Ukraine. And as President Zelenskyy just said, this is about air defense. It’s about artillery. It’s about ammunition,” Stoltenberg said. “And I expect more NATO allies to make further announcements today for more support to Ukraine, because we need to sustain and step up their support.”

That will help Ukraine “to produce, to trade, to function as a normal country,” Stoltenberg said, adding: “That will increase their ability to finance and to provide … ammunition themselves for the war.”

Zelenskyy, who will also meet Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo later on Wednesday, said he would focus on ways for Ukraine to use frozen Russian assets to fund Ukraine’s efforts to rebuild after President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion. Belgium is estimated to hold almost two-thirds of the €300 billion worth of frozen Russian central bank reserves.

Zelenskyy said there’s no finalized detail yet on a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel, though communications were ongoing and Ukraine, he said, was ready to begin EU membership talks.

Zelenskyy’s trip comes amid his continued efforts to secure modern fighters jets from his Western allies to fight off Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

This will be Zelenskyy’s second visit to Brussels since the start of the invasion, after he attended a summit of EU leaders in February in a visit that made headlines — not least because news of the trip leaked several days before it took place.

Prior to the visit to Brussels, the Ukrainian president was in Bucharest on Tuesday, where he met with his Romanian counterpart Klaus Iohannis to discuss regional security and bilateral ties.

This story is being updated.

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