(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged deeper integration into the European Union as he tries to rally his country to face an anticipated military offensive from Russia. 

Zelenskiy and his government held two days of talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her commissioners, who traveled to Kyiv to deliver a strong signal that Europe will stand up for Ukraine, but made no promises on the next steps for the country’s efforts to join the EU.

“Our integration is irreversible and has full support of the Europeans,” Zelenskiy said at a joint news conference with European Council President Charles Michel and von der Leyen “We showed progress in fulfilling the European Commission recommendations. We started preparations for negotiations” on accession.

“The aim is to start negotiations this year,” he added. “It is not the aim, it is the target.”

The EU granted Ukraine candidate status in a historic step for the war-torn nation on the long and difficult path to membership in the bloc in June and outlined seven steps — particularly around fighting corruption — needed to start accession talks. Zelenskiy hopes negotiations may begin as soon as this year, but the EU will be hard-pressed to offer shortcuts on a process that can last more than a decade.

“There are no timelines” about membership talks, von der Leyen said at the news conference. “But there is a goal.”

Ukraine faces another likely Russia’s offensive after Moscow mobilized 300,000 troops. Kyiv is holding out for more weapons deliveries for its own push in the south this spring, according to assessments from US and European officials. Russia is continuing its constant missile and drone barrages on Ukrainian cities, damaging apartment blocks, critical energy infrastructure and killing civilians.

“The key for us is to widen supply of weapons,” Zelenskiy said at the news conference. “The sooner we have modern tanks on the battlefield, the stronger our air defense will be, the sooner Russian aggression will be over.”

To read more: As Russia Gears Up for New Push, Ukraine Waits for More Weapons

During the trip, von der Leyen praised Ukraine’s efforts in implementing membership pre-conditions — and Michel said, “We will also support you every step of the way on your journey to the EU.” But both stopped short on promising any kind of fast track for Ukraine’s membership.

“The future of Ukraine is with the EU,” Michel said. “Your destiny is our destiny.”

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.