Zelensky in Athens to meet EU, Balkan leaders: Greek officials

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday landed in Athens for an official visit, the Greek prime minister’s office said, and would later join an informal dinner with EU and Balkans leaders.

Greece has been a strong supporter of Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, providing humanitarian aid and weapons including infantry fighting vehicles, Kalashnikov assault rifles, launchers and ammunition.

“The agenda is all that we can do together to protect human life and freedom in our common European home,” Zelensky said in a Telegram message prior to the meetings.

“Every day we add strength to our state, our soldiers and our cooperation with partners,” he said.

The Ukrainian president is concluding a European tour with previous stops in Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark.

Denmark and the Netherlands have said they would provide American F-16 jets to strengthen Kyiv’s Soviet-era air force, as it pursues a grinding counteroffensive against Russian forces.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is meeting with Balkan leaders through Tuesday, and will host an informal dinner Monday evening with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council chief Charles Michel also attending.

The other participants are the presidents of Serbia, Moldova, Montenegro and Romania, the prime ministers of Kosovo, North Macedonia, Bulgaria and Croatia, and the chairwoman of the council of ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mitsotakis’ office said in a statement.

The Greek PM’s office said the gathering marks the twentieth anniversary of a 2003 Thessaloniki summit confirming the European perspective of Western Balkan states.

A historically Russian ally bound by centuries of tradition and a shared Orthodox Christian faith, Greece under Mitsotakis has shifted and unequivocally condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last year it expelled a dozen members of Russia’s diplomatic and consular missions, and is hosting thousands of Ukrainians and their families.

In April, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov visited the Greek capital for talks with his then counterpart Nikos Panagiotopoulos.

Reznikov at the time said Ukraine after the war would seek Greek assistance in de-mining the Sea of Azov, and developing the country’s naval forces.

Greece has also offered to rebuild the maternity hospital in Mariupol that was shelled last year.

In April 2022, Zelensky gave a televised speech at a special session of Greek parliament to request assistance for Mariupol and Odessa, two Ukrainian cities that have had large ethnic Greek populations for centuries.

The session saw a rare attendance by the Greek head of state President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, and Zelensky was given a standing ovation by Greek ministers and MPs.

The Greek communists and a small nationalist party boycotted the event.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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