Leaders challenged to say 'Ukraine must win' after 100 days of war

The West offers solidarity as conflict passes milestone

A Ukrainian flag waves over a house destroyed by shelling in the village of Moshchun, near Kyiv. AFP
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European leaders expressed solidarity with Ukraine on Friday as it marked 100 days since Russia invaded, but were challenged to state outright that they want the Ukrainians to win the war.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, one of Russia’s fiercest critics in Europe, said it was “high time for us to believe in victory, just as firmly as Ukraine does”.

His Estonian counterpart Kaja Kallas, another hard-line opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said western support “must continue until Ukraine wins and justice prevails”.

But there was less clarity from Germany. Chancellor Olaf Scholz was criticised by the opposition after saying his aims were that “Putin does not win … that Ukraine can defend itself and succeeds in doing that”.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock then went further on a Thursday evening talk show, saying: “Ukraine cannot lose under any circumstances – that means Ukraine must win.”

Another German minister played it down as a semantic question but Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for clarity at a security forum in Bratislava, Slovakia on Thursday.

“We call on our allies and partners to drop ambiguous language and set goals straight,” he said. “Why don’t we set a positive and clear goal in three words? Ukraine must win.”

Liz Truss, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, chose the wording: “[We] reaffirm our steadfast support for Ukraine’s defence, to ensure they succeed and Putin fails."

Russia invaded on February 24 despite weeks of pleas from western countries to step back from the brink. Mr Putin claimed he was neutralising a threat to Russia and defending people in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine.

The war has unleashed a humanitarian crisis and an outpouring of sympathy for Ukraine. Many western countries have sent weapons and aid, and imposed a barrage of economic sanctions on Russia.

Mr Putin “expected the invasion to be over in days but significantly underestimated the resolve of brave Ukrainians, who have valiantly defended their country”, Ms Truss said.

Amin Awad, a UN Assistant Secretary General and crisis co-ordinator for Ukraine, meanwhile said the war "has and will have no winner ... rather, we have witnessed for 100 days what is lost".

The 100-day milestone came the day after the European Union approved a sixth round of sanctions against Russia, aimed at undermining its war effort by isolating it economically and cutting off the majority of oil imports.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she would hold talks on Friday with French President Emmanuel Macron on EU support for Ukraine, which is seeking membership of the bloc.

The commission said Ukraine was “fighting to preserve its very existence” and that the EU was “united in support” of the country’s people.

Poland called on its neighbours to “immediately cut off Putin’s funding for this war”, which comes partly from Russia's lucrative oil and gas revenue.

Although EU oil imports are being curbed, the sanctions will be phased in over several months and there is limited appetite to tackle the question of gas after the sometimes stormy negotiations over oil.

“History is repeating itself before our eyes,” Mr Morawiecki wrote in a guest article in German media, referring to 20th-century horrors in Europe. “There are too many similarities for us to ignore.”

Ms Baerbock said Germany would keep supplying weapons to Ukraine, as it seeks to head off criticism from Kyiv that the pace of arms deliveries has been too slow.

The US said it too would “continue to provide Ukraine the weapons and equipment that it needs to defend itself”, as well as humanitarian assistance for victims of the war.

Millions of people have been displaced by the conflict and left Ukraine for neighbouring countries. The UN says thousands of civilians have been killed and both sides claim to have inflicted heavy military casualties on the other.

Mr Putin and his military leadership face allegations of war crimes after civilians were found dead, some with their hands tied behind their back, in areas occupied then abandoned by Russian forces near Kyiv.

“Each day of war in Ukraine is one day too much,” said Estonian President Alar Karis. “It would take just hours for Russia to drop the weapons and stop this horror.”

Updated: June 03, 2022, 9:20 AM