Nearly 50 European leaders stress support for Ukraine at a summit in Spain. Zelenskyy seeks more aid

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives at the Europe Summit in Granada, Spain, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023. Some 50 European leaders are gathering in southern Spain's Granada on Thursday to stress that they stand by Ukraine, at a time when Western resolve appears somewhat weakened. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be there to hear it. (AP Photo/Fermin Rodriguez)

GRANADA – Almost 50 European leaders used a summit in the southern Spanish city of Granada on Thursday to stress that they stand by Ukraine at a time when Western resolve appears weakened. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that beside maintaining such unity, more military aid to get through the winter was essential.

Despite the political, economic and military support, the desperate struggle to rid Ukraine territory of invading Russian forces has ground to a stalemate, and Zelenskyy insisted that it was no time for wavering in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And especially now that questions about continued support are growing in the United States too.

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“Europe must be strong” despite what happens in other places like the United States, Zelenskyy said, calling on the leaders to provide for more air defense systems, artillery shells, long-range missiles and drones.

He said that victory or defeat in Ukraine would determine the fate of all of Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron seized upon the view and insisted that even if U.S. President Joe Biden had this week reassured everyone that Washington's commitment remained strong, it was first and foremost for Europe to act.

“Even if we are lucky to have such a committed American partner, we ourselves have to be totally committed, because this is in our immediate neighborhood,” Macron said.

Yet, even if the European Union promised Thursday to continue its support for Kyiv, it could never replace Washington’s contribution if funds were to dry up there, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said. “Certainly we can do more. But the U.S. is something irreplaceable for the support of Ukraine.”

That was a worry lingering over the third meeting of the European Political Community forum, which was formed in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 that drastically reset the continent’s political agenda and fundamentally undermined long-held beliefs on peace and stability on the continent.

Support from Europe has become all the more important after U.S. Congress hastily sent President Joe Biden legislation over the weekend that kept the federal government funded, but left off billions in funding for Ukraine’s war effort that the White House had vigorously backed.

Biden called other world powers on Tuesday to coordinate on Ukraine in a deliberate show of U.S. support at a time when the future of its aid is questioned by an important faction of Republicans who want to cut off money to Kyiv.

“Everybody is looking at the situation with obviously a lot of vigilance,” said Macron.

Europe too has to deal with its doubters.

Last weekend’s election in Slovakia, where pro-Russia candidate Robert Fico was the big winner, and Hungary’s continued recalcitrance to fully back Ukraine have cast increasing shadows on Europe’s commitment. That counts especially for the European Union where many decisions on Ukraine need unanimity among the bloc’s 27 members.

In Slovakia early this week, the president refused a plan by her country’s caretaker government to send further military aid to Ukraine, saying it doesn’t have the authority and parties that oppose such support are in talks to form a government following last week’s election.

“The main challenge that we have that is to save unity in Europe,” Zelenskyy said.

On Thursday, though, the overall mood was supportive. Like most leaders, summit host and Spanish caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez stood firmly behind Ukraine and offered Zelenskyy a new package of anti-aircraft and anti-drone systems and training for Ukrainian soldiers to use them.

Zelenskyy said after meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Berlin “is working on” providing Ukraine with another Patriot air defense system to be operational within months.

After a full day of thanks, he specifically pinpointed Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Britain for commitments. “Our warriors will have more artillery and long-range weapons. There will surely be more justice for Russian evil,” he said in a statement.

Zelenskyy insisted that Putin's attempts to divide the West would not cease.

"Russia will attack by information, disinformation, by fakes, etc.,” he said.

Talks were held just as news came in of a Russian rocket striking a village cafe and store in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 51 civilians in one of the deadliest attacks in the war in months.

The contrast could hardly be greater when the leaders attended a royal dinner hosted by Spain’s King Felipe VI at Granada’s famed Moorish Alhambra Palace, with its refined halls and gardens known for their fountains and decorative pools.

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Casert reported from Brussels. Associated Press writers Aritz Parra and Ciarán Giles in Madrid, Joseph Wilson in Barcelona and Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, contributed to this report.