June 19, 2024

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with his counterpart in Romania Tuesday for talks on regional security and to strengthen bilateral ties against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of his country.

He described the partnership between the two countries as key to “stability for Europe and beyond” on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, after meeting with President Klaus Iohannis in the capital, Bucharest.

The two discussed security in the Black Sea region, economic cooperation, shared infrastructure projects, and Ukraine’s requests for military support, Zelenskyy told reporters after the meetings. He also thanked Romania for providing both military and humanitarian support to his war-torn country.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Ukrainian president described the NATO and European Union member country as “a friend who came to our help on our darkest day and whose support gets stronger with time,” on X.

In recent weeks, Russia has carried out sustained attacks on Ukraine’s Danube River ports — located just across the river from Romania — as Moscow aims to disrupt Ukraine’s ability to export grain to world markets. Romania has confirmed drone fragment findings on its territory, the type used by the Russian army near its border with Ukraine.

“In Romania, it is well-known how dangerous Russian terrorism is, how dangerous the drones and missiles are that attack the villages near the Romanian border,” Zelenskyy said. “Ukrainian pilots will be trained in Romania and I discussed this with the Romanian president. We discussed our military requests.”

In July, Romania’s Supreme Council of National Defense said that the country aims to open a regional training hub for F-16 fighter jet pilots from fellow NATO countries and other partners, including Ukraine.

For his part, Iohannis said that Romania is “focused on helping Ukraine win the war” against Russia and that supporting Ukraine is in his country’s strategic interest. “Strengthening Ukraine’s security means strengthening Romania’s security.”

Ukraine and Romania signed an agreement in August to try and boost Kyiv’s grain exports through Romania after Russia withdrew from a wartime agreement a month earlier that ensured safe passage through the Black Sea. Romania’s Black Sea port of Constanta has become a key transport route for the war-torn nation’s grain amid the war.

Ukraine is a major global supplier of wheat, barley, corn and vegetable oil and has struggled since Russia’s invasion to get its food products to parts of the world in need. After Russia blocked the grain’s Black Sea passage, that left more expensive overland routes through Europe as the main path for Ukraine’s exports.

The Ukrainian president’s trip to Romania is his first official visit since Russia launched its full-scale invasion last year. In the wake of the invasion, millions of Ukrainian refugees fled to Romania before moving on to other countries.

Around 85,000 Ukrainian refugees are currently registered in Romania, under the EU’s temporary protection scheme.

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McGrath reported from Sighisoara, Romania.

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