Von der Leyen: Supporting Ukraine is costly, but freedom is priceless

European Commission President von der Leyen speaks during an interview in Kyiv

By Max Hunder

KYIV (Reuters) -Supporting Ukraine comes at a high cost, but freedom is "priceless," European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told Reuters on Thursday amid soaring inflation and high energy prices in Europe.

Speaking in Kyiv, Von der Leyen reiterated that the bloc would be unwavering in its backing of Ukraine, as cracks start to appear among member states in how to further punish Russia for the invasion of its neighbour.

The EU's sanctions on Russia are finally having a deep and visible impact, Von der Leyen told Reuters in an interview hours after she met Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

"It needed a certain amount of time for them to unfold their impact, and this is visible now," the head of the EU's executive body said.

Asked about the potential impact of Europe's developing energy crisis on support for Kyiv, Von der Leyen said standing with Ukraine "comes at a high cost, but our freedom, the international peace order, and democracy, is priceless."

The EU jointly funded military aid for the first time in its history to support Ukraine this year, through the European Peace Facility.

Von der Leyen said further support from the programme would likely be forthcoming in future, and described Ukraine's recent lightning counter-offensive in its north-east and south as "lifting spirits, not only in Ukraine but all over Europe."

The September assault has seen Kyiv claim the recapture of around 9000 square kilometres of land from Moscow, the vast majority of that in the north-eastern region of Kharkiv.

Asked about further EU help to bolster the counter-offensive, Von der Leyen gave no indication that support would diminish.

"More than ever, it is necessary that Ukraine gets all the military capability it needs to defend itself," she said, without giving further details.

(Reporting by Max HunderEditing by Chris Reese, Alexandra Hudson)