Western leaders rally to close ranks against Russia over Ukraine invasion

Calls from Kyiv for intervention rebuffed but West vows more aid for Ukrainian resistance

US president Joe Biden, French president Emmanuel Macron and British prime minister Boris Johnson at Nato headquarters in Brussels on Thursday. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Western leaders declared they would work together to close loopholes to prevent Russia evading economic sanctions and undercut its ability to wage war, in a string of summits in Brussels convened to rally international efforts to end the invasion of Ukraine.

Appeals from Kyiv for direct intervention to protect its cities from aerial bombardment were rebuffed again, though Nato announced it would bolster military preparedness and that members would send further arms to help Ukraine.

"The single most important thing that we have to do in the West is be united," United States president Joe Biden declared as he arrived to join a European Council as a rare overseas leader invited to join the top-level EU summit.

Mr Biden, in an early evening news conference after the meetings, warned that a chemical attack by Russia “would trigger a response in kind”. However, a White House official said later that did not imply any shift in the US position against direct military action in Ukraine.


Nato earlier agreed to send thousands of extra troops in four new battlegroups to Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria to bolster its eastern flank, as Ukraine warned Russia could attack member states if not prevented.

"I'm sure you understand that Russia does not intend to stop in Ukraine. Does not intend, and will not. It wants to go further, against the eastern members of Nato. The Baltic States, Poland – that's for sure," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned Nato leaders as he addressed the 30-member alliance by video link.

No-fly zone

Mr Zelenskiy said many lives had been lost because western countries had not agreed to impose a no-fly zone when the invasion began one month ago, and called for Nato members to offer him 1 per cent of their aircraft and tanks to help even up the fight with Russia.

But Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said that while anti-tank weapons, air defence systems and drones supplied to Ukraine by member states had proved "highly effective", there were limits to what the alliance could do.

"We have a responsibility to prevent this conflict from becoming a full-fledged war in Europe, involving not only Ukraine and Russia but Nato allies and Russia," Mr Stoltenberg said.

In a joint statement, the G7 major economies of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US condemned the siege of Mariupol where tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped in desperate conditions after weeks of bombardment, and called on Russia to immediately allow safe pathways for fleeing civilians and access for humanitarian aid.

Washington and Brussels announced they would provide $1 billion and €550 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine respectively, while working together to decrease EU dependence on Russian energy imports, a step likely to involve increased deliveries of liquified natural gas from the US.

It came as the US and UK announced fresh sanctions hitting Russian businesses and elites, while the G7 vowed to work together to prevent Moscow from finding workarounds, with pressure on China and India to deny Russia help.

Further sanctions

Ireland is among the countries to call for further EU sanctions on Russia up to and including energy, but a halt to gas supplies is strongly resisted by Germany and others who warn it would cause economic damage.

As EU leaders met, the Taoiseach is understood to have stressed to his counterparts the need to help prepare Ukraine for “immediate candidate status”, according to a source briefed on the discussions.

On his arrival at the summit venue, Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned that the EU must be prepared for the “long haul”, and said that Ireland was “open to more sanctions” against Russia. He added the EU would have to prepare for a squeeze on energy supplies next autumn, suggesting that further sanctions are likely to hit Russian fuel exports.

Mr Martin said that Ireland would support the EU's "strategic compass", a plan for strengthening the bloc's security and defence policy over the next decade, which EU leaders are due to approve at the summit. He insisted that the plan "respected our military neutrality", but added that Ireland's defence and security policy would continue to evolve in tandem with closer EU co-operation.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times