The European Union expressed its firm support for Ukraine on Monday after its foreign ministers met in the capital, Kiev, in a historic meeting held for the first time outside its borders.
The meeting comes as disagreements increase between European Union member states over the issue of support for Ukraine and while Kiev is making limited gains in its counterattack against Russian forces.
“We are holding a historic meeting of EU foreign ministers here in Ukraine, the candidate country and next member of the European Union,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on social media.
He added that the goal of the meeting is “to express our solidarity and support for the Ukrainian people,” acknowledging that the meeting “does not aim to reach concrete results and decisions.”
For its part, Kyiv welcomed the meeting.
“This is a historic event because it is the first time that the Foreign Affairs Council meets outside its current borders, outside the borders of the European Union, but within the future borders of the European Union,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters alongside Borrell.
The 27 EU countries have remained united in their support for Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, imposing severe sanctions on Russia and spending billions of euros on weapons for Kiev.
But there are now growing fears of cracks appearing within the European Union, with concern also growing about the support of the United States, one of the main countries that stands by Ukraine.
On the other hand, Slovakia may join Hungary, Russia's closest ally in the European Union, in opposing further support for Ukraine after the victory of the populist party led by former Prime Minister Robert Fico in the legislative elections in Bratislava last weekend.
There are also tensions between Kiev and some of the countries most supportive of it on the eastern side of the European Union, most notably Poland, over the issue of the flow of Ukrainian grain to its markets.
On the other hand, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna addressed concerns related to the decline in support, saying that the meeting was a signal to Moscow of the bloc's determination to support Ukraine in the long term.
"It is evidence of our firm and permanent support for Ukraine until it wins," she told reporters.
"It is also a message to Russia that you should not bet that we will tire. Our support will continue for a long time," she added.
The Kremlin, which was betting on Ukraine's rapid fall, predicted on Monday that fatigue with supporting Ukraine "will increase."
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for developing a strategy to protect Ukraine from the consequences of Russian strikes on the Ukrainian energy network in the coming months as temperatures drop.
"Ukraine needs a winter protection plan that includes air defense, generators, and enhanced energy supplies," she said in Kiev.
She continued, "Last winter, we saw the brutal way in which Russian President (Vladimir Putin) is waging this war, targeting vital infrastructure such as energy facilities."
Ukrainian authorities say that Russia launched systematic strikes on Ukraine's energy infrastructure, leaving millions last year without heat or water.
The foreign ministers of Hungary, Poland and Latvia did not attend the summit, according to what a Ukrainian government official told AFP on condition of anonymity, explaining that the representatives of Poland and Latvia were absent due to illness.
Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Sloat said, "It is really important that we gather here today to express our solidarity with Ukraine."
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine in February 2022, and his army quickly overran large areas of the country's south and east, but was defeated in the north.
In June, Kiev launched a counterattack but acknowledged slow progress as its forces faced fortified Russian defences.
“With every village, every inch that Ukraine liberates... it is also paving its way to the European Union,” Birbock said.
On Monday, Ukrainian Interior Minister Igor Klimenko said that Russia bombed the city of Kherson in the south of the country, seriously wounding a civilian and two policemen.
Police also said that a civilian was killed by Russian fire in the semi-besieged town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region in the east.
Separately, Ukrainian intelligence said that Ukrainian marches bombed a factory that produces cruise missiles in the Smolensk region in western Russia over the weekend.