French, German and Italian leaders visit Kyiv to show support

16 June 2022, 09:14

French President Emmanuel Macron, centre, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi travel on board a train bound to Kyiv after departing from Poland
Ukraine Russia War. Picture: PA

It marks the highest-profile visit to Ukraine’s capital since Russia invaded its neighbour in February.

The leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania have arrived in Kyiv in a show of collective European support for Ukraine as it tries to resist Russia’s invasion.

It marks the highest-profile visit to Ukraine’s capital since Russia invaded its neighbour in February.

The French President’s office said that President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Premier Mario Draghi had travelled to Kyiv together, and that Romanian President Klaus Iohannis will join them there.

After getting off the train in Kyiv, Mr Macron said they would visit sites where attacks occurred.

“It is an important moment,” he said.

“It is a message of European unity toward Ukrainians.”

Mr Macron said they will speak with Ukrainian officials about “both the present and the future”.

German news agency dpa quoted Mr Scholz as saying that the leaders are seeking to show solidarity but also their commitment to keeping up their financial and humanitarian help for Ukraine, and their supply of weapons.

He added that this support would continue “for as long as is necessary for Ukraine’s fight for independence”, dpa reported.

Mr Scholz said that the sanctions against Russia were significant and could lead to Moscow withdrawing its troops.

The European leaders are to meet with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The economies of France, Germany and Italy are the three largest in the EU.

RUSSIA Ukraine
(PA Graphics)

The leaders arrived on a special overnight train provided by the Ukrainian authorities, and held long meetings in the dining car after midnight to align their positions ahead of meeting with Mr Zelensky.

The visit carries heavy symbolic weight given that the three western European powers have often faced criticism for not providing Ukraine with the scale of weaponry that Mr Zelensky has been begging them for, and for their willingness to keep speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Many leaders and regular people in the Baltic and Central European nations, which were controlled by Moscow during the Cold War, believe that Mr Putin only understands force, and have viewed the efforts by Macron and others to keep speaking to Mr Putin following his invasion as unacceptable.

Hopes were high among Ukrainians that the visit could mark a turning point by opening the way to significant new arms supplies.

The visit comes as EU leaders prepare to make a decision on June 23-24 on Ukraine’s request to become a candidate for EU membership, and ahead of an important Nato summit on June 29-30 in Madrid.

Also on Thursday, Nato defence ministers are meeting in Brussels to weigh up more military aid for Ukraine.

On Wednesday, the US and Germany announced more aid, as America and its allies provide longer-range weapons they say can make a difference in a fight where Ukrainian forces are outnumbered and outgunned by their Russian invaders.

On Tuesday, during a trip to Ukraine’s neighbours Romania and Moldova, Mr Macron said a “message of support” must be sent to Ukraine before EU heads of state and government “have to make important decisions” at their Brussels meeting.

“We are in a moment where we need to send clear political signals — we, Europeans, we the European Union — toward Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” he said.

Mr Macron is deeply involved in diplomatic efforts to push for a cease-fire in Ukraine that would allow future peace negotiations.

He has frequent discussions with Mr Zelensky and has spoken on the phone several times with Mr Putin since Mr Putin launched the invasion.

Mr Scholz had long resisted traveling to Kyiv, saying he didn’t want to “join the queue of people who do a quick in-out for a photo opportunity”.

Instead, he said a trip should focus on doing “concrete things”.

Germany on Wednesday announced that it will provide Ukraine with three multiple launch rocket systems of the kind that Kyiv has said it urgently needs to defend itself against Russia’s invasion.

Defence minister Christine Lambrecht said Germany will transfer three M270 medium-range artillery rocket systems along with ammunition to Ukraine.

Ms Lambrecht, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels, said that training of Ukrainian soldiers in Germany on advanced howitzers whose delivery Berlin had already announced will soon be completed.

She said the multiple launch rocket systems can be delivered in late July or early August following training on that equipment.

Ms Lambrecht has said that Germany expects the systems to have “a swift and significant battlefield impact”.

By Press Association

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