It comes after Zelenskyy’s back-to-back visits to Berlin, Rome and Paris over the weekend that included a meeting with Francis.
In Berlin, Zelenskyy thanked German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for the country’s military support, a far cry from Berlin’s hesitancy earlier in the war. The Ukrainian leader left with a promise of additional military aid worth more than $3 billion.
After a three-hour meeting in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to help Ukraine “for as long as it takes,” pledging additional military aid, including armored vehicles and light tanks “in the coming weeks,” as well as training for soldiers and supporting Ukraine’s air defense capabilities.
Zelenskyy said Saturday that Kyiv and its Western supporters could make a Russian defeat in the war “irreversible” this year. And while that would require a sweeping success in the battles to come, he will have had the wind in his sails thanks to a renewed sense that Kyiv was beating back Russian forces after a difficult winter on the defensive.
On Saturday, Russia media reported that up to four Russian aircraft, including two fighter jets and two helicopters, may have been shot down in the country’s Bryansk region near the border with Ukraine. NBC News could not verify the reports.
Kyiv did not take responsibility for the incident, but Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, called it “justice” and “instant karma” in a tweet.
The incident could further fuel a sense of unease inside Russia, after a wave of explosions that hit strategic targets and several prominent pro-war figures in recent months and an alleged drone attack on the Kremlin, all blamed on Ukraine.
Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin suggested Sunday the aircraft could have been shot down by Russia’s own air defense systems, without providing evidence.
Prigozhin’s fighters have been fighting for the city of Bakhmut, which has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance and the focal point of the conflict in the country’s eastern Donbas region. His bitter feud with Russia’s top military brass over ammunition has escalated in full public view, with Prigozhin blaming army troops for setbacks in fighting around the city last week that saw Ukraine claim its first significant gains in months.