Zelenskyy co-hosts summit in Albania seeking more war support from southeastern Europe

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, left, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shake hands as they wait other officials for the summit of Southeastern European countries on peace in Tirana, Albania, Wednesday (local time). AP-Yonhap

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, left, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shake hands as they wait other officials for the summit of Southeastern European countries on peace in Tirana, Albania, Wednesday (local time). AP-Yonhap

Ukraine’s president co-hosted a summit with Albania’s government on Wednesday that is meant to encourage further support for Kyiv by southeastern European countries, as signs of fatigue grow two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion .

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived before midnight Tuesday on the latest stop in an international tour that saw him in Saudi Arabia earlier Tuesday to push for a peace plan and the return of prisoners of war from Russia.

Zelenskyy on Wednesday called Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama “Ukraine’s unwavering friend” in a message on X, formerly Twitter, adding the two would “discuss defense and political cooperation, support for the Peace Formula, and security agreements.”

“I will propose supporting Ukraine’s efforts to achieve just and lasting peace, as well as organizing the Global Peace Summit in Switzerland,” he said, referring to the summit.

Zelenskyy and Rama also signed a friendship and cooperation agreement “to strengthen our cooperation with Albania and Ukraine’s position in the Balkans.” Zelenskyy also awarded Rama with the “Yaroslav the Wise” medal for his contribution to Ukraine.

Zelenskyy is accompanied by Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Rama wrote on Facebook that he was proud to welcome Zelenskyy for “a solidarity meeting and to further the commitment of our democracies against Russian aggression.”

Securing further support is key to Ukraine’s leader while his country faces battlefield challenges. Zelenskyy on Sunday announced that 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in action since Russia’s invasion — the first time that Kyiv had confirmed the number of its losses.

Ukraine has urged Western leaders to increase the joint production of weapons and ammunition, improve Ukrainian air defenses and put new pressure on Russia via expanded sanctions. The head of NATO has said the U.S.-led military alliance has no plans to send troops to Ukraine, and Germany, Poland and other countries this week have said the same.

Eleven countries from southeastern Europe, including some of Ukraine’s neighbors, attended the Albania summit, three of them with online messages, along with officials from the European Union and other international institutions.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Albania earlier this month.

But not all the countries are in full support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. Kremlin ally Serbia is the only European country that has refused to align with EU sanctions following Russia’s invasion. It continues signing cooperation agreements with Moscow.

Albania, a NATO member since 2009 and a candidate for EU membership, has voiced its full support for Kyiv against Russia’s invasion. It has provided military assistance in the form of ammunition and training of Ukrainian military. It was among the first countries offering shelter to Ukrainian refugees. It has joined international sanctions against Russian officials and institutions.

As a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in the last two years, Albania joined the U.S. in initiating resolutions against Russia’s invasion. (AP)

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