The leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania arrived in Kyiv on Thursday in a show of collective European support for Ukraine as it tries to resist Russia’s invasion, marking the highest-profile visit to Ukraine’s capital since Russia invaded its neighbor.
The French president’s office said President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Premier Mario Draghi had traveled to Kyiv together, and that Romanian President Klaus Iohannis will join them there.
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Macron stated that they were going to visit the sites of attacks after getting off the train in Kyiv.
“It is an important moment,” he said. “It is a message of European unity toward Ukrainians.”
Macron said they will speak with Ukrainian officials about “both the present and the future.”
The European leaders are to meet with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. France, Germany, Italy and Italy account for the EU’s three biggest economies.
After arriving on an overnight train, the leaders met in the dining car at midnight to discuss their position before they meet with Zelenskyy.
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 weapons that Zelenskyy has been begging them for, and for their willingness to keep speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin — something Baltic and Central European leaders have found unacceptable.
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Ukrainians harbor high expectations that the trip could be a turning point and lead to substantial new arms supplies.
The visit comes as EU leaders prepare to make a decision June 23-24 on Ukraine’s request to become a candidate for EU membership, and ahead of an important NATO summit June 29-30 in Madrid.
NATO defense ministers will meet in Brussels on Thursday to discuss additional military assistance for Ukraine. Germany and the United States announced additional aid on Wednesday. They said that America and its allies provided longer-range weapons to help Ukraine in combating Russian invasion forces.
On Tuesday, during a trip to Ukraine’s neighbors Romania and Moldova, 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.
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Macron has been deeply involved with diplomatic efforts in Ukraine to press for a ceasefire that would permit future peace talks. Zelenskyy has been in frequent contact with Macron and he has also spoken to Vladimir Putin on several occasions by phone since the launch of the Russian invasion.
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.”
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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.
Christine Lambrecht, Defense Minister of Germany, stated that Germany would transfer three M270 medium range artillery rockets systems and ammunition to Ukraine.
Germany said the transfer, which echoes similar moves by Britain and the United States, will be accompanied by training and will have “a swift and significant battlefield impact.”
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