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Poland, Ukraine Affirm Their Common Front Against Russia


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy meets with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine Jan. 22, 2024.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy meets with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine Jan. 22, 2024.

Polish and Ukrainian leaders pledged Monday to bolster their alliance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, putting aside differences over the recent Polish blockade of Ukrainian trucks trying to enter the European Union.

In his first visit to Kyiv since being elected prime minster of Poland, Donald Tusk described Ukraine’s defensive war against the Russian invasion as a “battle” between "good and evil," adding, "Poland will do everything to increase Ukraine’s chances of victory in this war."

"The security of the Polish nation and the Polish state is also at stake in this fight," Tusk said at a joint media briefing with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Relations between the two countries had soured in recent months because of Polish blockades against Ukrainian trucks at the border.

Polish truckers enforced the blockade from November until last week, protesting Ukrainian truckers' permit-free access into the EU.

The EU had waived the permits system after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but Polish truckers want it reintroduced, saying their earnings have taken a hit. The truckers agreed last week to suspend their protests until March 1.

Tusk returned to Polish politics last month after serving as president of the European Council.

Tusk and Zelenskyy hailed plans for joint arms production while Zelenskyy said on X, formerly Twitter, that they had discussed a new form of cooperation aimed at larger-scale arms purchases for Ukraine. He did not provide details.

Tusk's surprise trip to Kyiv coincided with Ukraine’s Unity Day, commemorating the 1919 unification of western and eastern Ukraine, which has faced numerous invasions over its long history.

Zelenskyy marked the day by signing a decree offering dual Ukrainian citizenship to ethnic Ukrainians and their descendants from all around the world, apart from Russia, as well as foreign fighters who took up arms alongside Ukrainian soldiers to defend Ukraine against the Russian invasion.

Drone attacks

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military said Monday that it had thwarted Russian drone attacks in multiple parts of the country overnight, while Russian officials accused Ukrainian forces of carrying out a “vicious” attack in a Russia-controlled city in eastern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian air force said its air defenses had downed eight drones launched by Russia, including in the skies over the Mykolaiv, Kherson and Dnipropetrovsk regions. Officials said the drones had come from Russia’s southern Primorsko-Akhtarsk region.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov accused Ukraine of using indiscriminate weapons and attacking civilian infrastructure, leaving at least 27 people dead in the city of Donetsk on Sunday.

Peskov also said Monday that Russia was taking necessary measures after a suspected Ukrainian attack on a Baltic Sea fuel export terminal.

Ukraine’s military remained tight-lipped about both attacks.

US defense secretary

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will attend a meeting on Ukraine’s military aid virtually from his house, as the defense chief continues to recover from complications of prostate cancer treatment that led to his secret hospitalization, the Pentagon said Monday.

Tuesday's virtual conference will mark Austin's first public engagement since treatment.

The meeting comes as Republicans in Congress have blocked President Joe Biden’s emergency funding request for Ukraine, seeking increased security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said that while the United States is committed to Ukraine, lawmakers need to pass more funding for Kyiv as it battles Russian forces. "Our partners, our allies continue to do that, despite the fact that we do not have a supplemental [funding bill] that's been passed by Congress," Singh told reporters.

Biden has requested $61.4 billion in additional military funding for Ukraine as well as for replenishing U.S. stocks as Ukraine nears the two-year mark of its war with Russia. The funds sought for Ukraine are part of a supplemental funding request that also includes $14.3 billion for Israel and $13.6 billion for U.S. border protection.

Lavrov at the UN

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday attended a U.N. Security Council meeting on Ukraine in New York.

At the meeting, requested by Russia, Lavrov focused on U.S. and European arms support to Ukraine, saying the aid was dragging out the conflict. He did not address Western accusations that Moscow has been procuring drones and missiles from Iran and North Korea.

“It is cynicism of the highest order to claim that legitimate and lawful support for Ukraine’s self-defense is prolonging Russia’s war of aggression,” U.S. envoy Robert Wood told the council.

More than 40 ambassadors joined Ukraine’s envoy in the reading of a public statement ahead of the meeting. The statement condemned Russia’s aggression and its procurement of weapons from Iran and North Korea – which is a violation of several U.N. Security Council resolutions.

“The Russian Federation’s actions undermine the credibility of Security Council resolutions, undermine the global nonproliferation regime, exacerbate regional tensions and endanger us all,” Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.N. Sergiy Kyslytsya read on behalf of the group.

Asked by a reporter whether Ukraine could win the war, Kyslytsya said, “Ukraine will win this war. But not only Ukraine, but all the democratic world.”

Next month marks two years since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

VOA U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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