New French FM makes pledge to Kiev

Aiding Kiev against Moscow will remain “a priority,” Stephane Sejourne said

France will not stop supporting Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, new French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne told reporters during his trip to Kiev on Saturday. He made his statement as Western countries are struggling to come to an agreement about additional military and financial aid for the embattled country. 

Sejourne arrived in the Ukrainian capital just two days after he was appointed to his position as part of a government reshuffle. 

“Ukraine is and will remain France’s priority. The defense of the fundamental principles of international law is being played out in Ukraine,” he said during a meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba. “Russia is hoping that Ukraine and its supporters will tire before it does. We will not weaken.”

“That is the message that I am carrying here to the Ukrainians. Our determination is intact,” Sejourne said. He announced “a new phase of defense cooperation,” with the aim of “strengthening Ukraine’s capacity to produce [the weapons it needs] on its own territory.” 

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky thanked France for “unwavering defense support for our soldiers and assistance to our people.” Kuleba wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that he and Sejourne discussed imposing new sanctions on Russia and “establishing a mechanism to use Russian assets for Ukraine’s benefit.”

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“We also agreed to facilitate and scale up further Ukrainian-French defense cooperation,” Kuleba said.

France has been one of Kiev’s top weapons suppliers, having delivered AMX-10RC armored vehicles and SCALP air-launched cruise missiles.

Sejourne’s visit came at a difficult time for Kiev, as Zelensky and other top officials are renewing their calls for more sophisticated weapon systems in the wake of Ukraine’s failed summer counteroffensive. 

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that the US assistance has effectively “ground to a halt” because Republicans in Congress refused to back President Joe Biden’s proposal for the additional $60 billion package for Ukraine.

The EU’s plan for the €50 billion ($54 billion) aid package was similarly blocked last month by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is opposing the continuation of unconditional aid for Kiev. 

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