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Ukraine’s Zelensky to visit Brussels next week

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Ukrainian president-elect Volodymyr Zelensky walks prior to his inauguration ceremony in Kiev on May 20, 2019. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

Ukraine’s new leader Volodymyr Zelensky will next week travel to Brussels on his first foreign trip since becoming president, his office said on Wednesday, seeking to shore up Western support amid persistent tensions with Russia.

Zelensky, a 41-year-old former comedian, crushed incumbent Petro Poroshenko during last month’s election, in a rebuke to the establishment fuelled by popular anger over war and social injustice.

During the June 4-5 visit, Zelensky is due to meet with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

He is also expected to have talks with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

“The Ukrainian president will inform the EU and NATO partners of the security situation in eastern Ukraine,” Zelensky’s office said in a statement, referring to the war with Russian-backed separatists in the industrial east.

Plans are to “discuss ways to intensify international efforts to end the war” and address “further key reforms” in Ukraine, the statement added.

Zelensky has vowed to press ahead with the ex-Soviet country’s pro-Western course.

Both the EU and NATO back Ukraine in its tensions with Moscow but also say Kiev has to do more to push through much-needed political and economic reforms.

During his inaugural speech last week, Zelensky said his top priority was ending a war with separatists that has claimed some 13,000 lives since 2014.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of fuelling the conflict and sending weapons to the insurgents, charges which Moscow denies despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.


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