Macron, Scholz and Draghi back Ukraine’s bid to join EU during trip to Kyiv

16 June 2022, 17:34

Zelensky and Macron
Volodymyr Zelensky, left, and Emmanuel Macron shake hands at the end of a press conference in Kyiv (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko). Picture: PA

The leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania met Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

The leaders of four European Union nations visited Ukraine on Thursday, vowing to back Kyiv’s bid to become an official candidate to join the bloc in a high-profile show of support for the country fending off a Russian invasion.

French President Emmanuel Macron also promised Ukraine six more powerful truck-mounted artillery guns, the latest in a new round of Western arms pledges for Ukraine as the war grinds on in the eastern Donbas region.

The leaders “are doing everything so that Ukraine alone can decide its fate,” Macron said at a news conference.

In the face of Kyiv’s fears that Western resolve to help it could wane, the visit by Macron and the leaders of Germany, Italy and Romania carried heavy symbolic weight.

The three Western European powers have faced criticism for continuing to engage with Russian President Vladimir Putin – and failing to provide Ukraine with the scale of weaponry that it has said is necessary to fend off the Russians. Romania’s president also made the journey.

After arriving in Kyiv to the sound of air raid sirens, the leaders headed to Irpin, a suburb of the capital that was the scene of intense fighting early in the war and where many civilians were killed. They decried the destruction there.

While shocking images of such devastation have rallied Western support, officials in Ukraine have expressed fears that “war fatigue” could eventually erode that – particularly as rising prices and upcoming elections in the United States are increasingly dominating people’s concerns.

The US and its European allies have given billions of dollars in weaponry to Ukraine, and Germany and the US recently announced new arms shipments.

Such arms have been key to the country’s surprising success in preventing the Russians from taking the capital, but officials in Kyiv have said much more will be needed if they are to drive Moscow’s forces out.

Ukraine Russia War
A Ukrainian national flag hangs from a balcony of a destroyed building in Irpin (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

Many in Ukraine hoped that the leaders’ visit could mark a turning point by opening the way to significant new arms supplies and it also comes as EU leaders prepare to make a decision next week on Ukraine’s request to become a candidate for membership in the bloc.

European allies have sent increasingly muscular weapons and rallied around Ukraine more than many expected, approving wave after wave of unprecedented sanctions against Russia that are badly squeezing Europe’s economy.

But Ukrainians say more is still needed as Russian forces pressing their offensive in the eastern Donbas region, slowly but steadily gaining ground on the badly outmanned and outgunned Ukrainian forces.

While hopes were high for the visit, there was also scepticism.

Governor Serhiy Haidai of Luhansk, which is also part of the Donbas, said the visit would not yield progress if the leaders ask Ukraine to sign a peace treaty with Russia that involves giving up territory.

RUSSIA Ukraine
Russian invasion of Ukraine. See story RUSSIA Ukraine. Infographic PA Graphics. An editable version of this graphic is available if required. Please contact

“I am sure that our president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is not going to make concessions and trade our territories. If someone wants to stop Russia by giving them territories, Germany has Bavaria, Italy has Tuscany, the French can concede Provence, for instance,” he said.

“Today it will be one territory, tomorrow another one, the day after tomorrow another,” he said.

While visiting Irpin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz observed that officials must keep the horrible scenes destruction in mind in all their decisions.

“Innocent civilians have been hit, houses have been destroyed; a whole town has been destroyed in which there was no military infrastructure at all,” Mr Scholz said. “And that says a great deal about the brutality of the Russian war of aggression, which is simply out for destruction and conquest. We must bear that in mind in everything that we decide.”

Italian Premier Mario Draghi said during the tour of Irpin that Ukraine’s backers will rebuild “everything” with European help.

“They destroyed the nurseries, the playgrounds, and everything will be rebuilt,” Mr Draghi said.

Ukraine Russia War
Mario Draghi, left, and Emmanuel Macron check out the debris of war as they visit Irpin (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

Mr Macron, Mr Scholz and Mr Draghi, representing the three largest economies in the European Union, travelled to Kyiv together on a special overnight train provided by the Ukrainian authorities.

They have been criticised for not visiting Kyiv sooner. A number of other European leaders have already made the long trip overland to show solidarity with a nation under attack, even in times when the fighting raged closer to the capital than it does now.

President Klaus Iohannis of Romania, which borders Ukraine and has been a key destination for Ukrainian refugees, arrived on a separate train.

After viewing Irpin, he wrote on Twitter that there are “no words to describe the unimaginable human tragedy and horrible destruction” and called for “all Russian perpetrators to be held responsible by the international criminal justice” system.

Several air raid sirens rang out while the European leaders were in their hotel preparing for the rest of their visit, and Kyiv authorities urged people to seek shelter. Such alerts are a frequent occurrence.

Russia Ukraine War
The leaders attend a press conference at the Mariyinsky palace in Kyiv (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

In Ukraine, Mr Macron responded to criticism of France’s response, including his recent comment that Russia shouldn’t be “humiliated”, which deeply angered Ukrainians. He insisted: “France has been at Ukraine’s side since the first day.”

His office also released a list of the dates of all his conversations with Mr Zelensky. They have spoken by phone on 23 occasions since the war began; and Mr Macron spoke with Mr Putin 11 times, including three times with Mr Scholz.

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, Scholz 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.

Tamara Malko, a resident of the Donetsk region that is part of the Donbas, said Mr Macron and Mr Scholz had been “very cold” toward Ukrainians so far, and hoped for a change.

“We want peace very much, and have high hopes for Macron and Scholz,” she said. “We want them to see and understand our pain.”

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Climate activists in rally

Climate club: How Germany hopes to keep G7 leaders’ focus on the environment

Breaking News

At least 17 young people found dead in South African nightclub

Smoke rises from building

Russian missiles target Kyiv as troops consolidate gains in the east

Pro-choice supporters

Abortion rights supporters and opponents map next move

Migrants at Spanish border

Death toll from ‘stampede’ at Spanish border in Morocco climbs to 23

A boy holds his pet dog as his family evacuated from the war-hit area gets on an evacuation train in Pokrovsk, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, June 25, 2022

Russia edges closer to swallowing up Ukraine’s last remaining Luhansk stronghold

US Rep Mary Miller, of Illinois, speaks as former President Donald Trump stands behind her on stage at a rally at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Mendon on Saturday

Congresswoman calls removal of abortion rights a ‘victory for white life’

Russia Ukraine War

Russia pushes to block second city in eastern Ukraine

President Joe Biden waves to the media as he walks to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland

Biden arrives in Europe ahead of G7 and Nato summits

Chicago police at the scene where a five-month-old girl was shot and killed in the South Shore neighbourhood of Chicago

Five-month-old girl shot dead in car in Chicago

Tourists fill plastic bottles with water from a public fountain at the Sforzesco Castle in Milan, Italy

Milan to turn off fountains as drought hits Italy

A photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell

Seven accusers write to Ghislaine Maxwell’s sentencing judge

Vitali Klitschko

European mayors duped into calls with impostor posing as Kyiv’s Vitali Klitschko

People lay flowers at the scene of a shooting in central Oslo, Norway

Gunman kills two during Oslo Pride festival

Activists from Oxfam wear giant heads depicting G7 leaders during a demonstration in Munich, Germany

Protesters gather as G7 leaders set to arrive in Germany

The Brit fell from the Devil's Pass in northern Spain

Brit, 25, falls to his death climbing over Spain's notorious 'Devil's Pass'