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WORLD

Zelenskyy Co-Hosts a Summit in Albania Seeking More War Support from Southeastern Europe

February 28, 2024

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Ukraine’s president co-hosted a summit with Albania’s government on Wednesday that is meant to encourage further support for Kyiv by southeastern European countries, as signs of fatigue grow two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived before midnight Tuesday on the latest stop in an international tour that saw him in Saudi Arabia earlier Tuesday to push for a peace plan and the return of prisoners of war from Russia.

Zelenskyy on Wednesday called Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama “Ukraine’s unwavering friend” in a message on X, formerly Twitter, adding the two would “discuss defense and political cooperation, support for the Peace Formula, and security agreements.”

“I will propose supporting Ukraine’s efforts to achieve just and lasting peace, as well as organizing the Global Peace Summit in Switzerland,” he said, referring to the summit.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, center, speaks as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, right, looks on during the summit of Southeastern European countries on peace in Tirana, Albania, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. Ukraine’s president co-hosts a summit with Albania’s government on Wednesday that is meant to encourage further support for Kyiv by southeastern European countries, as signs of fatigue grow two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion. (AP Photo/Armando Babani, Pool)

He said that all Western Balkan countries and Ukraine deserve to be members of the European Union and NATO.

“The European Union and NATO have provided Europe with the longest and most reliable era of security and economic development, and we are all equally worthy of being a part of the European and Euro-Atlantic communities,” he said in his speech at the summit.

He said that Kyiv wanted “international law and global stability to be based on truly multilateral and transparent processes.”

Rama wrote on Facebook that he was proud to welcome Zelenskyy for “a solidarity meeting and to further the commitment of our democracies against Russian aggression.”

Securing further support is key to Ukraine’s leader while his country faces battlefield challenges. Zelenskyy on Sunday announced that 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in action since Russia’s invasion — the first time that Kyiv had confirmed the number of its losses.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pose before their meeting in Tirana, Albania, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. Albania hosts on Thursday a summit of Southeastern European countries on peace, security and cooperation, focused on the war in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Armando Babani)

He acknowledged in Tirana that “the problems with the supply of ammunition … are effecting the situation on the battlefield,” though added that “we proved that it is possible to withstand and overcome even an enemy that seemed to be one of the strongest in the world.”

Ukraine has urged Western leaders to increase the joint production of weapons and ammunition, improve Ukrainian air defenses and put new pressure on Russia via expanded sanctions.

The head of NATO has said the U.S.-led military alliance has no plans to send troops to Ukraine, and Germany, Poland and other countries this week have said the same.

Eleven countries from southeastern Europe, including some of Ukraine’s neighbors, attended the Albania summit, three of them participating online, along with officials from the European Union and other international institutions.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Albania earlier this month.

FILE – Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama, left, and his cabinet listen the speech of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy via video conference in Tirana on May 3, 2022. Albania hosts on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2024 a summit of Southeastern European countries on peace, security and cooperation, focused on the war in Ukraine and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will visit the country. (AP Photo/Franc Zhurda, File)

But not all the countries are in full support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. Kremlin ally Serbia is the only European country that has refused to align with EU sanctions following Russia’s invasion. It continues signing cooperation agreements with Moscow.

Albania, a NATO member since 2009 and a candidate for EU membership, has voiced its full support for Kyiv against Russia’s invasion. It has provided military assistance in the form of ammunition and training of Ukrainian military. It was among the first countries offering shelter to Ukrainian refugees. It has joined international sanctions against Russian officials and institutions.

As a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in the last two years, Albania joined the U.S. in initiating resolutions against Russia’s invasion.

“The interaction between us, between neighbors, between neighboring regions, between all partners, has become a factor that along with the resilience of our people in Ukraine, does not allow Putin to prevail,” said Zelenskyy.

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By LLAZAR SEMINI Associated Press

Associated Press writer Illia Novikov in Kyiv, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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