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 on Thursday. AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrived in Kyiv on Thursday on a joint trip to show their backing for Ukraine as it struggles to withstand a Russian assault.
The three travelled together overnight in a train used to transport high-profile visitors to Ukraine.
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“It’s an important moment. It’s a message of unity we’re sending to the Ukrainians, of support, to talk both about the present and the future, since the coming weeks, as we know, will be very difficult,” Macron said as they arrived.
Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis will join them for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expected to touch on Kyiv’s bid to join the European Union as well as the war itself.
President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the media in Kyiv, Ukraine. File photo
The visit has taken weeks to organise with the three men looking to overcome criticism within Ukraine over their response to the war.
“We’re here, we’re focused, we will join President Zelensky to go to a war site where massacres have been carried out,” Macron said.
Asked why the visit was taking place now, an Elysee official said they had considered it was best to do it just before an EU summit next week that is due to discuss Kyiv’s bid to join the 27-nation bloc.
Ukrainian Deputy PM Iryna Vereshchuk (right) walks next to Emmanuel Macron as he arrives in Kyiv. AFP
The European Commission is due to make a recommendation on Friday on Ukraine’s status as an EU candidate, something the biggest European nations have been lukewarm about.
“A balance has to be found between Ukraine’s natural aspirations to (join) the EU at a very special time, and attention to all the countries which already have candidate status and are stuck in the negotiation chapters and the fact that we must not destabilise the EU or fracture it,” the Elysee official said.