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Volodymyr Zelensky visits Baltic states in bid to sustain support for Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) is greeted by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda (R) on his arrival in Vilnius on the first stop of a series of visits Wednesday that also took in neighboring Estonia and Latvia. Photo by Toms Kalnins/EPA-EFE
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) is greeted by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda (R) on his arrival in Vilnius on the first stop of a series of visits Wednesday that also took in neighboring Estonia and Latvia. Photo by Toms Kalnins/EPA-EFE

Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a whistle-stop tour of the capitals of Baltic allies Wednesday for talks with leaders on security, EU and NATO membership and shoring up European support for his country's military struggle with Russia.

In Vilnius, he met with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, members of parliament and the Ukrainian community in Lithuania before going on to Tallinn and Riga, Zelensky announced in a post on X.

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Zelensky said the priority for his visit was to show appreciation for the unwavering backing of the three countries since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

"Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are our reliable friends and principled partners. Security, EU and NATO integration, cooperation on electronic warfare and drones and further coordination of European support are all on the agenda.

"But first and foremost, our gratitude. For the uncompromising support for Ukraine since 2014 and especially now, during Russia's full-scale aggression."

Calling him the "symbol of Ukraine's resistance" against Russian aggression, Nauseda signaled that his country's backing remained as strong as ever.

"We believe in Ukraine's victory and will continue supporting you!" he wrote on X.

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Zelensky's shuttle diplomacy came as NATO's Ukraine Council convened Wednesday at Ukraine's request following a wave of almost daily Russian aerial attacks, mostly by missile and drones, that began Dec. 29, killing more than 60 people and injuring hundreds.

Ahead of the meeting in Brussels, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba set high expectations for the immediate steps he wanted to see from NATO members, specifically more air defenses.

"First and foremost, we expect the meeting to expedite critical decisions on further strengthening Ukraine's air defense capabilities. Both in terms of modern systems and their ammunition," he said in a statement.

"Ensuring regular supplies of missiles for Patriots, IRIS-T, NASAMS and other systems is a top priority that must be completed today, not tomorrow."

However, like Zelensky, he was careful to give credit for the military backing Ukraine has received and is receiving from the West.

"We are deeply grateful to all of our partners who continue to provide Ukraine with the means to defend its skies."

The meeting comes two days after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told other EU countries to step up military aid shipments to Ukraine and asked the European Commission to follow up by contacting the governments to find out their future plans.

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Germany is Ukraine's second-largest backer after the United States.

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