Volodymyr Zelensky: Ukrainian President visits neighboring Poland, as the two allies press West to keep up military support to Kyiv

(CNN) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is in Poland for his first formal go to to certainly one of Kyiv’s closest allies since Russia’s invasion began in February 2022.

Zelensky was awarded Poland’s highest honor, the Order of the White Eagle, throughout a gathering with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw.

The Ukrainian chief handed by means of Poland on his means to visits to the United States and Britain in latest months, however Wednesday’s journey marks his first devoted cease in the nation that has taken in additional than 1,000,000 Ukrainian refugees and led the means in urging NATO companions to ship Kyiv extra military provides.

It additionally marks a normalization of Zelensky’s diplomatic duties, as he appears to be like to press the West to keep up its support in the second 12 months of Russia’s warfare.

Unlike earlier visits overseas in latest months — which had been usually introduced at a second’s discover and concerned high-stakes journey beneath cowl of darkness — Zelensky is touring accompanied by his spouse and the go to itself encompasses a fuller schedule.

“You have not abandoned Ukraine, you stood with us shoulder to shoulder, and we are grateful to you. We believe this is a historic relationship,” Zelensky mentioned at a joint look with Duda.

“Your personal attitude to our people, millions of Ukrainians who have found shelter in Poland, who feel at home here — I want to thank the entire Polish nation for all of this and for those first days and weeks when we needed this help so much,” he added.

The present of friendship epitomized the extent to which Ukrainian-Polish relations have flourished in the face of Moscow’s warfare. Though the two nations share an intertwined however difficult previous, Poles — like their neighbors — have lengthy been cautious of the Russian risk, and maintaining Moscow at bay has been thought-about a vital joint goal of every nation.

Duda mentioned Zelensky was a “man of outstanding qualities,” as he awarded him with the Order of the White Eagle throughout a ceremony at the Presidential Palace.

“He is a unique man; you, Volodymyr are unique,” Duda advised Zelensky. “Having received the mandate from your people, you suddenly were called to a unique mission that nobody could have foreseen.”

“None of us a year ago, after the Russian invasion could have known what would happen to Ukraine and what would happen personally to you … we have no doubt that your stance today will save Ukraine from the Russian aggression,” he mentioned.

He can even meet with representatives of Polish companies, volunteers and rescuers, and the mayors of cities bordering Ukraine.

Poland has been a steadfast ally of Ukraine since Russia invaded, and has taken in additional individuals displaced by the warfare than every other nation.

That dedication has partially mended Warsaw’s rocky relationship with the European Union, and seen the nation emerge as a number one NATO member in combating Russia’s risk.

The journey comes amid a slow-moving military stalemate in jap Ukraine. Zelensky lately visited troops close to the frontline in the Donbas, the place Russia has made little territorial progress for a number of months.

Ukraine has in the meantime obtained its first shipments of tanks from the United Kingdom, Germany and different Western nations in the previous weeks, following weeks of negotiations earlier in the 12 months by which Warsaw was a vital dealer. Kyiv hopes that the arrival of the autos will enable models on the frontline to be extra aggressive in attacking Russian positions.

Last month, Poland additionally grew to become the first NATO nations to pledge fighter jets to Ukraine, sending 4 MiG-29 planes.

With preventing usually confined to Ukraine’s east and slowed down in trench warfare, Zelensky seems to be cautiously making the most of his elevated means to go to world leaders in individual and make the case for extra support.

NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg indicated on Tuesday that Zelensky has additionally been invited to the alliance’s summit, happening in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius in July.

“A strong independent Ukraine is vital for the stability of the Euro-Atlantic area, and we look forward to meeting President Zelensky at our Vilnius summit in July,” Stoltenberg mentioned.

CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Antonia Mortensen and Sviatlana Vlasova contributed reporting.

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