Weapons assistance to Ukraine must be stepped up as the current war will decide the very future of freedom in Europe, Ukraine's president urged Thursday.
"We are grateful for the assistance we have already received, but weapons supplies should be stepped up. Because it is on the battlefield in Ukraine that it is being decided whether freedom in Europe is going to be preserved for everyone without exemption," Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an address to the Bratislava Forum, in the Slovakian capital.
Stressing Ukraine's will to join the European Union, Zelenskyy said that one of the motivations for "unifying" the Ukrainian people during the war is the hope of EU membership.
"We should strengthen Ukraine's unity by providing Ukraine a candidate status to the European Union and later the full-fledged membership,” he said.
Ukraine's EU membership will not be decided in a day or month, he said, adding: "But now one of the motivations for unifying our people and gaining trust that Europe regards us as an equal partner, as a powerful partner … candidate status to EU membership is one of such motivations."
Welcoming the EU's sixth sanctions package on Russia, Zelenskyy said it is "gratifying" and should be put in practice "urgently."
He also urged the union to go forward with a seventh package.
Last month, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the seventh package should directly target Russian exports, as the Ukrainian economy has suffered more from the war, which began on Feb. 24, than Moscow did from sanctions.
According to UN estimates, at least 4,113 civilians have been killed and 4,916 injured in Ukraine since the war began, with the true toll believed to be much higher.
Over 6.8 million people have fled to other countries, while more than 7.7 million have been internally displaced, according to the UN refugee agency.