World

EC chief von der Leyen arrives in Kyiv as Ukraine marks invasion anniversary

Other foreign dignitaries are also expected in Ukraine on Saturday to express solidarity.

Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Ursula von der Leyen Ursula von der Leyen (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) (Markus Schreiber/AP)

The president of the European Commission has arrived in Kyiv to mark the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ursula von der Leyen arrived shortly after a Russian drone attack struck a residential building in the southern city of Odesa, killing at least one person.

Three women also sustained severe burns in the attack on Friday evening on a residential building, regional governor Oleh Kiper said on his social media account. Rescue services are still combing rubble looking for survivors.

Other foreign dignitaries are also expected in Ukraine on Saturday to express solidarity, as its forces run low on ammunition and weaponry and western aid hangs in the balance.

“More than ever we stand firmly by Ukraine. Financially, economically, militarily, morally. Until the country is finally free,” Ms von der Leyen said in a social media post after she arrived in Kyiv.

A sombre mood hangs over the country as the war against Russia enters its third year and Kyiv’s troops face mounting challenges on the front line amid dwindling ammunition and personnel challenges.

Its troops recently withdrew from the strategic eastern city of Avdiivka, handing Moscow one of its biggest victories.

Earlier this month, President Volodymyr Zelensky fired top military commander Valerii Zaluzhnyi, replacing him with Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, in the most significant shake-up of top brass since the invasion.

Russia still controls roughly a quarter of the country after Ukraine failed to make any major breakthroughs with its summertime counter-offensive.

Meanwhile, millions of Ukrainians continue to live in precarious circumstances in the crossfire of battles, and many others face constant struggles under Russian occupation.

Foreign officials are expected to descend on the capital to meet Mr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials and express their continued support for the country as it fights Moscow’s troops and prepares for European Union membership.

In the US Congress, Republicans have stalled 60 billion dollars (£47 billion) in military aid for Kyiv, desperately needed in the short term.

The EU recently approved a 50 billion euro (£42 billion) aid package for Ukraine to support its economy, despite resistance from Hungary.

US President Joe Biden tied the loss of the defensive stronghold of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region after months of gruelling battles to the stalled US aid.

Fears have since risen that Ukrainian forces will face similar difficulties across other parts of the 620-mile front line as they come under mounting pressure from Russian assaults.