Ukraine’s Zelensky to take questions at Hebrew University event next week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will speak to Jerusalem’s Hebrew University in a live address next week, the university said on Thursday, as Kyiv continues to appeal for support from Israel and other western nations.

Zelensky will speak to the university community on Wednesday, June 22, at 4:15 p.m, Hebrew University said.

The speech will be broadcast live on the university’s Facebook and YouTube pages. The Ukrainian-language speech will have simultaneous English translation.

After the speech, Zelensky will take questions from students and faculty.

Zelensky spoke to the Knesset via video in March in a speech that was criticized by some lawmakers for comparing Ukraine’s war experience to the Holocaust.

Jerusalem and Kyiv have had regular contact since the start of the war, although the relationship has sometimes been tense. Israel has sent Ukraine aid since soon after Russia’s invasion began, but has held back from sending weapons, as Jerusalem has tried to preserve its ties with Moscow.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, criticized Israel last week for refusing to provide defensive weapons and for not accepting wounded Ukrainian soldiers for rehabilitation. Ukraine has also consistently called for more military aid from other countries in recent weeks, as its military gets battered by Russian weaponry, taking heavy casualties.

Zelensky had another significant show of international support on Thursday, as Germany, France, Italy and Romania visited Kyiv.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday during the visit that Zelensky will take part in this month’s Group of Seven summit, giving him another large platform to appeal for help.

Scholz thanked Zelensky for “accepting my invitation to participate in the G7 summit” being held June 26 to 28 in the German Alpine resort of Schloss Elmau.

Zelensky, who is not believed to have left Ukraine since the start of the war on February 24, was expected to join the leaders by video-link.

The G7 group of advanced, liberal economies includes the United States, France, Canada, Japan, Germany, Italy and the UK.

Scholz arrived with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian premier Mario Draghi in Ukraine by train early Thursday and headed to Irpin, scene of fierce battles early in Russia’s invasion.

Scholz called the wreckage he witnessed “terrible” and “senseless.”

“An entire city in which there was no military infrastructure whatsoever was destroyed,” he told reporters. “That tells us a lot about the brutality of the Russian war of aggression which is only aimed at destroying and conquering.”

Scholz pledged “international solidarity so the citizens of Ukraine will be able to rebuild their country.”

The leaders of the major EU powers vowed to help Ukraine defeat Russia and to rebuild its shattered cities during the trip.

“France has been alongside Ukraine since day one. We stand with the Ukrainians without ambiguity. Ukraine must resist and win,” Macron said.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi (2L) French President Emmanuel Macron (3L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (R) visit Irpin on June 16, 2022. (Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP)

Surrounded by the wreckage left by Ukraine’s successful but hard-fought defense of its capital in the early stages of the 113-day-old conflict, Draghi said: “We will rebuild everything.”

“They destroyed kindergartens, they destroyed playgrounds. Everything will be rebuilt,” he said.

It is the first time the three have visited Kyiv since Russia’s February 24 invasion.

Ukraine has applied to join the European Union and, although no one in Brussels expects it to be a quick process, the leaders of the bloc’s most powerful countries were expected to bring Zelensky a positive message. EU leaders are preparing to make a decision June 23-24 on Ukraine’s request to become a candidate for EU membership.

Kyiv is also pleading with its western allies to step up supplies of weapons to its forces, which are outgunned by Russian artillery on the frontline in the east of the country.

Moscow was dismissive of the European visit, and of the arms supplies.

“Supporting Ukraine by further pumping Ukraine with weapons,” warned Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov would be “absolutely useless and will cause further damage to the country.”

Fighting in eastern Ukraine is focused on the industrial city of Severodonetsk, and Russians forces appear close to consolidating control after weeks of intense battles.

Police members inspect a crater caused by a Russian rocket attack in Pokrovsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, June 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

In Brussels, Ukrainian defense minister Oleksiy Reznikov and other officials met with around 50 countries of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at NATO headquarters asking for a surge in weapons and ammunition.

“Ukraine is really in a very critical situation and therefore, it’s an urgent need to step up,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told journalists ahead of two days of talks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile underscored that he was not as isolated internationally as his foes would wish with a call with China’s leader Xi Jinping, their second reported call since Russia attacked Ukraine.

China has refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and has been accused of providing diplomatic cover for Russia by criticizing Western sanctions and arms sales to Kyiv.

The United Nations warned a hunger crisis that has been worsened by the war in Ukraine, traditionally a breadbasket to the world, could swell already record global displacement numbers.

Addressing the food insecurity crisis is “of paramount importance… to prevent a larger number of people moving,” the UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi told reporters.

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