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The Russia-Ukraine war is the focus of NATO foreign ministers' meeting


Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, arrived in dramatic form at NATO headquarters today.


DMYTRO KULEBA: My agenda is very simple. It has only three items on it. It's weapons, weapons and weapons.

FADEL: Well, after several hours of talks with NATO foreign ministers and officials from the Group of Seven leading Democracies, Kuleba came out saying...


KULEBA: I was pleased to hear today a growing understanding about allies, of the fact that Ukraine is fighting not only for itself but also for them.

FADEL: NPR's Michele Kelemen joins us from NATO headquarters to discuss all this. Hi, Michele.


FADEL: So did the Ukrainian foreign minister get what he wanted out of these meetings today?

KELEMEN: Well, he was definitely the star guest here at NATO headquarters. I mean, foreign ministers crowded around him, giving him hugs and handshakes. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was a tremendous sense of solidarity for Ukraine against Russia's aggression. Blinken met separately with Kuleba after the Ukrainian foreign minister had those meetings with NATO and G-7 counterparts. And they're all talking about ways to continue to support Ukraine, to build on sanctions, to put more pressure on Russia. So there were a lot of strong words of encouragement here.

FADEL: And what about those weapons, weapons, weapons?

KELEMEN: Right. I mean, Kuleba says he's cautiously optimistic about that. He said that he came with very specific asks and very specific timelines, and he found that the allies understood the needs that he's talking about - heavy weapons, air defenses, more missiles. The main thing, though, is the timeline. He said he's - you know, that Ukraine needs these in days, not weeks. There's just a lot of concern that as Russian troops leave areas near Kyiv that they're regrouping to try to take more territory in eastern Ukraine. And Kuleba says his goal is to prevent more Buchas. That's the Kyiv suburb where there have been so many reports of Russian atrocities.

FADEL: Right.

KELEMEN: He got really emotional talking about someone he knows who had been repeatedly raped there. He said he even accused Russian soldiers of raping children. And he fears the situation could be worse in other parts of Ukraine - so very dramatic testimony from him.

FADEL: The Ukrainians also want to see more sanctions on Russia. Where does that stand?

KELEMEN: Yeah, there were more sanctions announced this week, both here in Brussels and in Washington. But Kuleba is sounding frustrated by the pace of that as well. He said it shouldn't take more civilians dying and horrifying images like what we are seeing in Bucha to put in place tougher measures against Russia. What he wants is an oil and gas embargo on Russia. The Europeans are still heavily dependent on Russian energy, and it's going to take some time to move away from that dependency. But they say they are moving in that direction, and they're determined to make Putin pay a price for invading Ukraine.

FADEL: So we've talked about sanctions and military aid, but what about diplomacy?

KELEMEN: Well, the sanctions and military aid are designed to help strengthen Ukraine's hand at the negotiating table with Russia. The U.S. has been pretty skeptical about diplomacy. And they want - the U.S. wants to make sure that however this war ends, there are going to be long-term consequences for Russia's actions. And Kuleba, you know, also talked about how difficult it is to talk with the Russians now, given these atrocities that are going on, but he said, to prevent more Buchas, we're going to have to talk. So that was his message here at NATO headquarters.

FADEL: NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen joining us from Brussels. Thank you so much for your reporting.

KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

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