KYIV — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy blasted EU member states that are blocking sanctions over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, operated by Russia’s nuclear energy giant Rosatom, exhorting them to step up targeted action against the company’s top management.
Speaking alongside European Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the end of an EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv, Zelenskyy said “we still need the support of all of the EU leaders,” implying that some European states are hitting the brakes when it comes to sanctioning Russia, particularly on crimes at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia plant in southeastern Ukraine.
Zelenskyy said that top managers at the plant should be added to the sanctions list, adding that the identities of those in charge are known: “What other evidence do you need?” he said.
He accused Russia of having taken Ukrainian nuclear experts and top managers from the plant hostage and sending their children to Russia, calling out countries who still refuse to impose sanctions against the top managers of Rosatom
“What if their children were just taken, put into the buses and forcefully taken to the Russian Federation?” He added that such “forced deportation” requires sanctions in response.
Hungary, Bulgaria, Finland and Slovakia are among the countries opposing sanctions targeting Rosatom, given the importance of the plant to their domestic energy needs.
But EU officials privately welcomed the fact that the focus is now on targeting individuals, rather than nuclear fuel itself, which they contend is worth very little to Russia in terms of revenue.
Zelenskyy also said his government was looking at the components of drones and missiles to find out which parts were being provided to and helping Russia.
Though not specifically mentioning Iran or other countries, Zelenskyy also called out non-EU countries that could be circumventing sanctions and enabling the Russian war.
“I’m offended by the actions of the countries which are our partners but financially, they are partners of Russia in this war,” he said.
The issue of sanctions featured in Friday’s private meeting between Zelenskyy and the presidents of the European Commission and Council. Von der Leyen said that the 10th sanctions package will be agreed by February 24, the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, noting that it is worth about €10 billion.
Michel also said that the European Council had managed to agree unanimously on nine sanctions packages, adding that “we must do more, and we will do more.”
Zelenskyy’s plea to all EU countries to back further sanctions against Russia comes following a Thursday meeting with von der Leyen where he warned: “Sanction speed in Europe has slowed down a bit; and the Russian terrorist state has sped up.”
“The more we do it, the closer we will be to the defeat of Russian aggression.”
Zelenskyy also sounded a note of warning about his own country, urging Ukrainians “to unite” and remain motivated.
“The motivation is given not only by the partners,” he said, but also “by the spirit from within the country.”
Discussing the situation in Bakhmut, where Ukrainians are said to be sustaining heavy losses, Zelenskyy called those who had fallen “heroes,” adding that faster weapons deliveries would make a difference not only in Bakhmut.
He also warned that some Ukrainian cities, especially those that are not occupied by Russian forces, seem “relaxed” about the war now — a change from the start of the Russian invasion. Back then, “we were all at war,” Zelenskyy said.
Wilhelmine Preussen contributed reporting.
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