As usual, Volodymyr Zelenskyj was connected via video.

In Bratislava on Thursday, the Ukrainian President used the location of the Slovak capital on the banks of the Danube to bring up the subject of water.

In his speech at the GLOBSEC security conference, he pointed out the dangers that threatened his country at sea to the participants, who included various heads of state and government from Central and Eastern Europe as well as EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

"One of the most important targets for the Russian army are bridges." The fighting in the Donbass also increased the risk of the coal mines sinking, polluting the groundwater and ultimately the Black Sea, Zelenskyj sketched a bleak scenario.

Nicholas Zimmerman

Editor in Politics.

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The Ukrainian President vehemently demanded that his country be officially declared a candidate for EU membership as soon as possible.

"Candidate status is one of the motivations that unites our people," said Zelenskyy - explaining that there are "powerful people" in the conference hall in Bratislava who could speed up this process.

The Ukrainian President also put pressure on him in a speech he gave to the Luxembourg Parliament, also on Thursday.

He expects that Luxembourg will work to ensure that Ukraine receives the official status of an EU candidate country in June and becomes a member of the EU "in an accelerated process".

"I believe that Ukraine is already showing by its actions that it meets the European criteria," said the Ukrainian President.

Embassy towards Budapest

In front of the spectators in Bratislava, Zelenskyj took on those who, in his opinion, thwarted European unity against the Russian aggressor: "We see steps by countries that counteract this unity," he said.

Without explicitly naming it, the Ukrainian President is likely to have Hungary in mind.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's government not only pushed for the oil embargo to be relaxed, but also managed on Thursday to keep Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who supports the Kremlin's war drive, off the EU sanctions list.

EU Commission President von der Leyen used her appearance in Bratislava to clearly communicate which side she is on.

"Ukrainians must win this war," she said.

Putin must realize that the war is a serious strategic mistake.

Regarding Kyiv's desire to join the EU, von der Leyen stated that the Ukrainians "want to be part of our European family".

At the same time, the President of the Commission made it clear that rapid accession is not currently the top priority in Brussels.

One must first support Ukraine to overcome the war and then provide "massive financial aid".

She only named support on the way to the EU in third place.

Von der Leyen also made it clear that she expects reforms from Kyiv before EU accession.

"It is Ukraine that decides their future," she said.

However, one must work towards “investments with reforms”.

"The European Commission will stand on the Ukrainian side with all its experience, which will help the investments to be effective," said the Commission President.

This paves the way for the country to join the European Union.

Von der Leyen named reforms in the state administration, the fight against corruption and the strengthening of the independent judiciary as priorities.