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Taoiseach to reaffirm support for Ukraine in Paris

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will be among 20 European leaders travelling to Paris later today to reaffirm support for Ukraine and send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he cannot win a war that is entering its third year.

The meeting was called at short notice by French President Emmanuel Macron because, according to his officials, of an escalation of Russian aggression in recent weeks.

The second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine coincided with the fall of Avdiivka, a strategically important city in eastern Ukraine, and the death of Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian anti-corruption campaigner.

The fact that House Republicans in Washington are continuing to block $60 billion (€55 billion) in aid for Ukraine – at a time when it is running low on ammunition – has also conspired to create the impression that Mr Putin simply has to wait for western fatigue and division to deliver him an inevitable victory in Ukraine.

President Macron has called the meeting in the Élysée Palace expressly to send a message to President Putin that he is not going to win and that whatever setbacks have hit Ukraine, European resolve is solid.

One official said the objective was to crush Mr Putin’s narrative.

However, European unity is not solid. Neither Hungary nor Slovakia, whose leaders have expressed admiration for Mr Putin, are sending representatives.

The Taoiseach will be joining the leaders of Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. David Cameron, the British foreign secretary will attend, as will senior US and Canadian officials.

The summit will not see the announcement of new weapons supplies.

Rather leaders will look for ways to be more efficient on the ground as well as to increase coordination between Ukraine and its allies.

Read more: Two years on: The war in Ukraine in numbers

Paris conference to belie ‘doom and gloom’ on Ukraine, Elysee says

“We want to send Putin a very clear message, that he won’t win in Ukraine,” a presidential adviser told reporters in a briefing. “Our goal is to crush this idea he wants us to believe that he would be somehow winning.”

After initial successes in pushing back the Russian army, Ukraine has suffered setbacks on eastern battlefields, with its generals complaining of shortages of arms and soldiers.

French officials said the security conference in Munich earlier this month, which coincided with the death of Mr Navalny, was all about “doom and gloom”, and that Mr Macron was keen to dispel that.

“We’re neither doomy nor gloomy,” the French adviser said. “We want Russia to understand that. Russia will have to count on us all collectively to end this war and restore Ukraine’s rights.”

However, the adviser said the working meeting will not be an occasion to announce new weapon deliveries to Ukraine but more to brainstorm ways to be more efficient on the ground, as well as increase coordination between allies and Ukraine.

The French officials said Russia had shown renewed aggressiveness in recent weeks, such as Mr Putin’s flight on a nuclear-capable bomber, in what they view as an attempt to intimidate Europeans at a time US support was thrown into doubt by the presidential election.

With additional reporting by Reuters

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