EU leaders meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a summit in Brussels struck a cautious note on the prospect of sending the western fighter jets Kyiv says it needs to defend itself against Russian aggression.

Speaking on his way into the first in-person summit with Zelenskyy in Brussels, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said that Ukraine’s allies needed to ensure they are not getting themselves into a direct confrontation with Russia.

“You have to make absolutely sure you are not getting into an Article 5 direct confrontation between Nato and Russia,” he said, in a reference to the collective defence provision of the Nato treaty. Rutte said the pros and cons of such decisions should only be discussed behind closed doors, given the sensitivity of the topic.

In a speech to the European parliament earlier on Thursday, Zelenskyy said that a victory for his country in its war with Russia would guarantee the safety of Europe as a whole.

Ukraine’s president did not mention jets in his speech, but in recent days he has been stepping up his calls for allies to rapidly supply the arms his forces need to prepare for a renewed Russian offensive. During a visit to London on Wednesday, Zelenskyy called for “wings for freedom” and the UK government said afterwards it was looking at what jets it might be able to give Ukraine, but only as a “medium- to long-term” solution.

However Nato allies are striking a cautious note about the idea, which officials expect to be discussed at the EU summit.

French president Emmanuel Macron said he had not discussed fighter jets with Zelenskyy during their meeting in Paris on Wednesday evening, adding that he would not “share the Ukrainian plan” publicly.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki stressed that his country could only act “as part of a Nato formation”. He added: “If such a decision is made, we will not be the first to transfer fighters, but we will certainly respond positively to it, provided that those who have the most of these fighters . . . transfer them to Ukraine.”

The Kremlin said discussions over supplying Ukraine with fighter jets showed western countries were drawing closer to fighting a direct war against Russia. “We see this as the UK, France and Germany’s growing involvement in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The line between indirect and direct involvement is gradually disappearing,” Dmitry Peskov, president Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, told reporters.

In his speech in the EU parliament, Zelenskyy praised the bloc for purging itself of the “corrupt” influence of Russian oligarchs and its “ruinous” dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

“We are defending against the most anti-European force in the modern world; we Ukrainians are on the battlefield with you,” he said.

He addressed much of his speech to European citizens, thanking them for their support for Ukraine and receiving several standing ovations. “I would like to thank all of you in Europe in hundreds of towns and villages who supported Ukraine in this historic battle,” he said.

Zelenskyy is also seeking continued support for his country’s EU membership bid. The decision to grant Ukraine candidate status had “kept us motivated to stay the course”, he said. He expressed confidence that “Ukraine is going to be a member of a European Union that is winning.”

Additional reporting by Max Seddon in Riga

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