Zelensky Hails ‘Victory for Ukraine’ in Europe as Putin Ally Stands Down

Author

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has declared “victory for Ukraine” after the European Union (EU) decided to open accession talks for the war-torn country.

The European Council voted in favor of moving forward with negotiations for Ukraine and neighbor Moldova to obtain EU membership on Thursday, dealing a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, which has strongly opposed the move.

The vote, taken at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels, came as something of a surprise. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whom many have described as an ally of Putin, had previously threatened to veto the negotiations. Orban unexpectedly abstained from voting instead, with all other members voting in favor of the measure.

“This is a victory for Ukraine,” Zelensky wrote in a post to X, formerly Twitter. “A victory for all of Europe. A victory that motivates, inspires, and strengthens.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pictured during a meeting in Oslo, Norway on December 13, 2023. Zelensky celebrated the European Union’s decision to open accession talks for his country on Thursday, calling it a “victory for all of Europe.”
CORNELIUS POPPE/NTB/AFP

European Council President Charles Michel announced the decision on X minutes earlier, calling it “a clear signal of hope for their people and for our continent.”

Newyork Verified reached out for comment to the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., via email on Thursday.

Orban, whose relationship with Moscow has deteriorated somewhat since the beginning of the Ukraine war, reportedly said that his decision to not veto the vote did not mean that his position on Ukrainian EU membership had changed.

“Hungary’s perspective is clear: Ukraine is not ready for us to begin negotiations on its EU membership,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s a completely illogical, irrational and improper decision.”

While Orban’s decision to abstain from voting represents a stinging blow to Putin and his hopes of keeping Ukraine and Modolva out of the EU, it is unclear when or whether either country will actually achieve EU member status. The process can take several years to be completed.

The summit in Brussels also highlighted Russia’s increasingly strained relationship with its once-strong ally Armenia, as Armenian Foreign Affairs Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said that his government “warmly welcomes” a recommendation for opening “accession talks with Moldova and Ukraine.”

Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, argued last year that there was no “big difference” between Ukraine joining the EU and joining NATO, which some have suggested could spark the beginning of a new world war.

Ukraine applied for EU membership days after Russia invaded its territory on February 24, 2022. The country was granted candidate status in June 2022.

Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that Ukraine’s potential EU admission could take “several decades,” with countries including Montenegro and Serbia having failed to achieve membership status despite becoming candidates years earlier.