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Zelensky urges allies to use 'all means' to force Russia into peace talks

MADRID, Spain, May 29 ------ Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the West to "use all means" to force Russia to peace talks during a visit to Madrid, which pledged one billion euros in military aid as a Russian offensive gained new ground. 


Russia said it has taken two more villages as part of its assault in eastern Ukraine and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged allies to rethink their restrictions on using Western weapons to strike inside Russia, a key demand of the Ukrainian president. "We need to intensify our joint work with our partners to achieve more. Security and tangible coercion of Russia to peace by all means," Zelensky told a joint press conference with Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. 


On the back foot, Ukraine has been pressing its backers -- especially the United States -- to allow it to use longer-range weapons they supply to hit targets inside Russia. Washington and other allies have been reluctant to permit Kyiv to strike over the border out of fear that it could drag them closer to direct conflict with a nuclear-armed Russia. Zelensky pressed home the point in Madrid. 


Long-range targets 

"We need to work together and put pressure not only on Russia, but also on our partners to give us the opportunity to defend ourselves against Russia," Zelensky said. "Even those partners who are afraid to give this or that advice should understand that air defense is defense, not attack," reiterating his call for aerial defense systems capable of intercepting the 3,000 aerial bombs hitting Ukraine each month. 


Zelensky was to arrive in Brussels on Tuesday to sign a bilateral security accord with Belgium and was also expected in Portugal. And there are signs of a Western rethink on his demands. Stoltenberg told NATO lawmakers in Sofia that the time had come to reconsider lifting those restrictions. "If (Ukraine) cannot attack military targets on Russian territory then it ties one hand of the Ukrainians on their back and makes it very hard for them to conduct defense." 


On Sunday, however, Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni opposed giving Ukraine greater flexibility on Russian targets. "I think we have to be very careful," she told Italian television. Earlier this month, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said during a visit to Kyiv that Ukraine had every right to use British-donated missiles to strike inside Russian territory. Questioned on Monday, Sanchez was evasive, saying he "had no such desire". "We will be at Ukraine's side for as long as it takes," Sanchez said, announcing a military aid package as part of a security pact "to enable Ukraine to strengthen its defence capabilities." 



Ukraine is calling for US Patriot air defense systems to counter Russian bombardments, arguing that it has only a quarter of the resources it needs. 


In Madrid, Zelensky said he needed "seven additional Patriot systems," including "at least two for Kharkiv," which is close to the Russian border and is being regularly shelled. Sanchez said Spain had already sent Patriot missiles to Kyiv, and is "working with various allied countries to see exactly" how many more launchers can be sent. 


Ukraine's army chief Oleksandr Syrsky said on social media that French military instructors would soon arrive in the war-battered country and that he had "signed the documents" so they could start visiting training bases. Officially no NATO country has instructors in Ukraine and the country's defense ministry later issued a statement saying that it was still "in discussions" with France and other countries on the issue. France's defense ministry said the request was being studied "to understand their exact needs". French President Emmanuel Macron has not ruled out sending troops to Ukraine if the conflict worsens. 


Russians take two more villages 

Russia on Monday claimed to have captured two more villages in eastern Ukraine, where a strike on a hypermarket in Kharkiv, the country's second-largest city, killed 17 people on Saturday, according to a new toll. A new strike on an industrial zone in the city killed a woman on Monday, authorities said. A separate Russian attack on the village of Snigurivka in the southern Ukrainian region of Mykolaiv left three dead, including two teenagers, and wounded six more, the regional governor said. 




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