French, German and Italian leaders visit Kyiv for Zelenskyy talks

USA & World

French, German and Italian leaders visit Kyiv for Zelenskyy talks

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have arrived by train in Ukraine’s capital, where they are expected to meet President Volodomyr Zelenskyy.

The trip has taken weeks to organise, with the three men looking to overcome criticism within Ukraine over their response to Russia’s invasion.

France’s Ambassador to Kyiv, Etienne de Poncins, shared on his Twitter account a photo taken by the Italian daily La Repubblica of the three leaders in a train en route to Kyiv.

The symbolic visit by the three European leaders comes as Ukraine once again pleaded for more weapons to fend off Russian advances in the south and the east, nearly four months into the war. Major-General Dmytro Marchenko, who leads Ukraine’s forces in the southern city of Mykolaiv, said his troops could achieve victory over Russia if they were given the right weapons.

The trip comes a day before the European Commission makes a recommendation on Ukraine’s status as a European Unionc candidate, something the biggest European nations have been lukewarm about and are set to discuss at a leaders’ summit on June 23-24. The visit also comes ahead of a June 29-30 NATO summit in Madrid. France currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

Ukraine has criticised France, Germany and, to a lesser extent, Italy, for alleged foot-dragging in their support against Russia, accusing them of being slow to deliver weapons and of putting their own prosperity ahead of Ukraine’s freedom and security.

On Tuesday, during a trip to Ukraine’s neighbours 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.

Macron is deeply involved in diplomatic efforts to push for a ceasefire in Ukraine that would allow future peace negotiations.

He has frequent discussions with Zelenskyy and has spoken on the phone several times with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the February 24 invasion.