Most European Union foreign ministers gathered for a meeting in Kyiv on October 2 in a show of solidarity with Ukraine as concerns are growing about a possible weakening of support in the bloc after the election victory in EU member Slovakia of a populist party that opposes military aid for the war-wracked country.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hailed the meeting as “historic” and a reiterated that the place of Ukraine was in the 27-member bloc.
“We are convening a historic meeting of EU Foreign Ministers here in Ukraine, candidate country and future member of the EU,” Borrell wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “We are here to express our solidarity and support to the Ukrainian people,” he said.
Kuleba also welcomed the gathering, which he said was taking place within the bloc’s “future borders.”
“Glad to welcome EU foreign ministers at the historic meeting in Ukraine. For the first time in history, outside current EU borders. But also within its future borders. I am grateful to the European Union and personally to Josep Borrell for the unwavering EU support for Ukraine,” Kuleba said on X, where he also posted a photo of himself and Borrell shaking hands in Kyiv.
Despite Borrell’s warm words of support for Ukrainian membership, the foreign ministers of Hungary and Poland were conspicuously absent from the Kyiv meeting, with the two EU member states sending lower-level delegations instead.
Meanwhile, referring to the election victory in neighboring Slovakia of pro-Russian Robert Fico, who vowed to immediately curb military aid to Ukraine if he became prime minister again, Kuleba said Kyiv respected the result.
“We respect the choice of the Slovak people,” Kuleba said. “But it is too early to say how the election result will affect Slovakia’s position,” he added, pointing that Kyiv can “draw the first conclusions” after a coalition is formed — a complicated process that might take a long time.
Ukraine was granted EU candidate member status in June last year, months after the start of Russia’s unprovoked invasion. But the negotiation process is expected to take years before Kyiv can join the 27-member bloc.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has maintained close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has been against supplying weapons to Kyiv or admitting it into the 27-member bloc.
Poland’s relations with Ukraine, usually warm, are currently strained due a spat about Ukrainian grain exports.
The meeting in Kyiv came just hours after Russia overnight launched fresh artillery strikes on Kherson, killing at least one person and wounding several others, including children, and damaging an Orthodox cathedral in the southern Ukrainian city.
“Today, at about 5 a.m., the enemy shelled the center of Kherson. A fire broke out at the site of the attack, which was promptly extinguished by firefighters,” Kherson region’s Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram. “As a result of Russian aggression, one person was killed, six more were wounded — two of them children.”
Russian shelling also damaged the Holy Spirit Cathedral and the administration of the Kherson Diocese, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reported on October 2.
“The projectiles hit the basement of the diocesan administration, as well as the cathedral, as a result of which the central entrance, facade, sacristy, and utility rooms were damaged and the panes in the windows were broken,” the Kherson Diocese said in a message.
The liberated part of Kherson region, including the city of Kherson, has been shelled on a near-daily basis for months by Russian troops stationed on the left bank of the Dnieper River.
On October 1, Russian shelling of several settlements in Kherson killed a man in his 40s in Tyahynka, a town about 30 kilometers northeast of Kherson city.
Russia overnight also launched seven Iranian-made drones at the southern region of Dnipropetrovsk, military spokeswoman Natalyia Humenyuk told Ukrainian television, adding that four of them were downed by Ukraine’s air defense.
On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces continued their offensive actions in the Bakhmut area of the eastern Donetsk region and in the direction of the southern city of Melitopol, where 38 close-quarters battles were fought over the past 24 hours, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military said in its daily report on October 2.
U.S. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, vowed on October 1 after signing a bill to avoid a government shutdown that aid for Ukraine that was dropped from the legislation would continue and said he expects Congress to pass the aid in separate legislation.
Biden said in an address from the White House that Kyiv can count on U.S. support.
“We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” he added.
Biden spoke after Congress averted a government shutdown by passing a short-term funding package late on September 29 and rushing it to the White House for his signature before the midnight deadline. But in order to ensure passage, legislators dropped assistance for Ukraine to help in its fight against Russia.
Biden is now urging Congress to negotiate an aid package as soon as possible, saying there’s “an overwhelming sense of urgency.”