European Union foreign ministers sought on Monday to show that the bloc can maintain its financial and military support for Ukraine despite the serious inflationary impact on EU economies five months after Russia's invasion.
The foreign ministers are likely to approve another 500 million euros ($504.35 million) of EU funding to supply arms to Ukraine, taking the bloc's security support to 2 billion euros since Russia forces swept into Ukraine on Feb. 24. They are also close to agreeing an import ban on Russian gold.
"We must support Ukraine," Swedish Deputy Foreign Minister Robert Rydberg said as he arrived for the meeting. "Sweden will raise the importance of agreeing a new package of military support for Ukraine. We will also raise the importance of continuing to strengthen the restrictive measures against Russia," he said, without going into details.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will address the 27 EU ministers via video conference later on Monday and EU diplomats expect him to plead for more sanctions, more weapons and a continued tough line on Russia.
"We are not going to stop supporting Ukraine (or) putting sanctions on Russia," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who was chairing Monday's meeting, told reporters on arrival.
But after six rounds of EU sanctions on Russia, rising food and energy prices in Europe and a war that neither Ukraine nor Russia can easily win, Borrell said it was becoming harder to keep up the sense of urgency.
"We have to have strategic patience," he said, adding he hoped for a deal with Russia this week to release blocked Ukrainian grains exports.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis also called for Europeans to stay the course, saying that even as governments and parliaments head off for a summer recess, "Russian troops have no plans to take free days from further attacking Ukraine."
The unprecedented scope of Western sanctions on Russia includes an oil embargo, banning transactions with Russia's central bank and freezing its assets, and halting new investments in Russia.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin has reaffirmed his determination to continue what he calls the "special military operation" in Ukraine, despite the destruction of Ukrainian cities and deaths of thousands of people.
Russia is preparing for the next stage of its offensive, a Ukrainian military official said over the weekend, after Moscow said its forces would step up military operations in "all operational areas".
($1 = 0.9914 euros)