EU chief vows 'unshakeable' solidarity with Ukraine

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that this was not the time for the bloc to soften its stance against Russia. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS - Western sanctions on Russia are having a real impact and are there to stay, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday, stressing that the European Union's (EU) solidarity with Ukraine would be "unshakeable".

With Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska the guest of honour as she delivered her annual state of the union speech, Dr von der Leyen said: "Never before has this Parliament debated the state of our union with war raging on European soil."

Dr von der Leyen spoke before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where many lawmakers and EU commissioners wore Ukraine's blue and yellow colours.

"And I stand here with the conviction that with courage and solidarity, Putin will fail and Europe will prevail," Dr von der Leyen said, adding: "Europe's solidarity with Ukraine will remain unshakeable."

Dr Von der Leyen, whose proposals to help European households and companies will include skimming off windfall profits from energy companies and imposing cuts in electricity usage across the bloc, said the bloc would also help rebuild Ukraine.

While some in Europe, pointing at the huge spike in energy prices, have been arguing that the bloc's sanctions on Russia were hitting the West more, Dr von der Leyen said that "the sanctions are here to stay" and that they were hurting Russia.

"Russia's financial sector is on life-support", she said, adding that nearly one thousand international companies have left the country.

"The Russian military is taking chips from dishwashers and refrigerators to fix their military hardware, because they ran out of semiconductors. Russia's industry is in tatters."

At a time when Ukraine is working on securing territory it has reclaimed from occupying Russian forces in a swift counter-offensive, Dr von der Leyen said this was not the time for the bloc to soften its stance.

"This is the time for us to show resolve, not appeasement," she said. "We are in it for the long haul."

She also said the EU will double its firefighting capacity to help countries cope with increasingly devastating climate change impacts.

"These events are becoming more and more frequent and more and more intense... The EU will buy 10 light aircraft and three additional helicopters to complete its fleet," she said.


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