Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy arrived in Brussels on Thursday to push EU leaders for more weapons in the fight against Russia's invasion and for a quick start to EU membership talks.
Hand on his heart, standing in front of the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag while his country's national anthem played in the European Parliament, Zelenskiy prepared to address the assembly before attending a summit of EU leaders.
While Zelenskiy is unlikely to leave with immediate pledges to satisfy his requests, the visit gives him a chance to press his case in person with all the EU's 27 national leaders for the first time since Russia invaded his country on Feb. 24 last year.
The Netherlands is not ruling out any kind of military support for Ukraine, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters as he arrived in Brussels for the EU summit, while Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said NATO countries should act jointly on the matter.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who last month said his country would supply its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, overcoming misgivings about sending heavy weaponry, did not go into specifics but said: "We will continue our support for Ukraine in the defence of its independence and integrity for as long as necessary."
Also arriving in the Belgian capital ahead of their meeting with Zelenskiy, Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said EU member states should jointly buy arms and ammunition for Ukraine.
"It is very important that we speed up the military aid to Ukraine," she also said. "We should give a clear signal to the European defence industry to produce more."
Having won promises of Western battle tanks in recent weeks, Ukrainian officials are now focused on trying to secure the supply of longer-range rockets and fighter jets.
Western governments have so far rebuffed requests for jets, arguing they are not what Ukraine needs for the moment and that it would take years to train Ukrainian pilots to fly them.
However, Zelenskiy got a British commitment on Wednesday to train Ukrainian pilots to fly NATO-standard fighters. London said it had not yet decided whether to supply such aircraft but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said "nothing is off the table".
A Ukrainian official said Zelenskiy wanted leaders at the European Council summit to ramp up munitions supplies.
"We badly need as of now, as of yesterday, long-range artillery, all types of artillery ammunition," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Battle tanks – the decision has been taken by several member states, but we have no tanks for now. This needs to be speeded up," the official said.
On the question of joining the EU, Ukrainian officials are pushing for membership talks within months.
But while some EU member countries are keen to give Ukraine the morale boost that would come with membership talks, others are much more cautious. They have stressed would-be members need to meet a range of criteria - such as cracking down on corruption - before they can even start negotiations.
After their meeting with Zelenskiy, the EU leaders will debate proposals to enable the bloc to compete with the United States in clean-tech production and reduce its dependence on China, with the aim of settling differences such as those over subsidies by March.
Bitterly split over sharing out the task of caring for refugees on their soil, they will also discuss how to handle increasing arrivals. The bloc's border agency reported 330,000 irregular crossings last year, the highest since 2016. (Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold, Philip Blenkinsop, Bart H. Meijer, Charlotte Van Campenhout, Sudip Kar-Gupta; Writing by Andrew Gray and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Hugh Lawson)