French Emmanuel Macron, German Olaf Scholz, Italian Mario Draghi visit Kiev to show support

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania arrived in Kiev on Thursday in a demonstration of collective European support for Ukraine as it tries to resist Russian invasion, marking its most notable visit to Ukraine’s capital. since Russia marks. invaded his neighbor.

The French president’s office said President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi had traveled together to Kiev and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis will join them there.

After getting off the train in Kiev, Macron said they would visit locations where attacks took place.

“It’s an important moment,” he said. “It is a message of European unity to Ukrainians.”

Macron said they will talk to Ukrainian officials about “both the present and the future”.

The German news agency dpa quoted Scholz as saying that the leaders want to show solidarity, but also their commitment to maintain their financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and their arms supply.

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

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

European leaders meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The economies of France, Germany and Italy are the three largest in the EU.

The leaders arrived on a special night train operated by the Ukrainian authorities and held lengthy meetings in the dining car after midnight to align their positions ahead of the meeting with Zelenskyy.

The visit carries heavy symbolic weight, as the three Western European powers have often faced criticism for not giving Ukraine the magnitude of weapons Zelenskyy begged for, and for being willing to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin. keep talking.

Many leaders and ordinary people in the Baltic and Central European countries, which were controlled by Moscow during the Cold War, believe that Putin only understands violence, and have criticized Macron’s and others’ attempts to continue talking to Putin after his invasion. considered unacceptable.

Among Ukrainians, there was great hope that the visit could mark a turning point by paving the way for important new arms stockpiles.

The visit comes as EU leaders prepare to decide on Ukraine’s application for EU membership from 23-24 June, and ahead of a key NATO summit of 29-30. June in Madrid.

Also on Thursday, NATO defense ministers will meet in Brussels to weigh up more military aid to Ukraine. On Wednesday, the US and Germany announced more aid as America and its allies provide longer-range weapons that they believe can make a difference in a battle where Ukrainian forces are outnumbered and defeated by their Russian invaders.

On Tuesday, while traveling 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 “make important decisions” at their meeting in Brussels.

“We are at a time when we need to send clear political signals – we Europeans, we the European Union – to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” he said.

Macron is deeply involved in diplomatic efforts to push for a ceasefire in Ukraine that would allow for future peace negotiations. He has frequent conversations with Zelenskyy and has spoken on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin several times since Putin launched the invasion in late February.

Scholz had long opposed traveling to Kiev, saying he “didn’t want to join the line of people rushing in for a photo opportunity”. Instead, Scholz said a trip should focus on doing “concrete things.”

Germany announced on Wednesday that it will provide Ukraine with three multiple-missile systems of the kind Kiev has said it urgently needs to defend itself against Russian invasion.

Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said Germany will transfer three M270 medium-range missile systems along with ammunition to Ukraine.

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Lambrecht said training of Ukrainian soldiers in Germany on advanced howitzers whose delivery had already been announced by Berlin will soon be completed.

She said the multi-launch missile systems could be delivered in late July or early August after training on that equipment.

Lambrecht has said Germany expects the systems to have “a rapid and significant impact on the battlefield”.

Corbet reported from Paris. David Keyton in Irpin, Ukraine, and Frank Jordans and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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