Scholz, Macron and Draghi arrived in Kyiv

Scholz, Macron and Draghi arrived in Kyiv

Chancellor Scholz (m.) in Kyiv

Chancellor Scholz (m.) in Kyiv

© 2022 AFP

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), French President Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi have begun their visit to Kyiv.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), French President Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi have begun their visit to Kyiv. The leaders arrived in the Ukrainian capital by train around 9:30 a.m. (local time) on Thursday, AFP reporters reported. When asked by a journalist why he came to Ukraine, Macron replied: “To deliver a message of European unity.”

Chancellor Scholz said it was not just about demonstrating solidarity. The three heads of state and government “also wanted to assure that the help we are organizing – financial, humanitarian, but also when it comes to weapons – will be continued,” he told the “Bild”. “And that we will continue it for as long as it is necessary for Ukraine’s struggle for independence.”

It is the first visit by the heads of state and government of Germany, France and Italy to Ukraine since the Russian war of aggression began on February 24. The focus will probably be on the Ukrainian application for EU membership and other arms deliveries.

Scholz, Macron and Draghi boarded the train in Poland. According to AFP information, they arrived at Rzeszow International Airport on Wednesday evening, from where they traveled to Ukraine shortly after midnight. They were expected in Kyiv by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. They may also meet their EU colleague, Romania’s President Klaus Johannis, there.

Macron said the day before during his visit to a NATO base in Romania: “As the EU, we have to send political signals to Ukraine (…) before the EU summit, which has important decisions to make.” The 27 EU heads of state and government are meeting in Brussels next week to discuss, among other things, Ukraine’s application for membership.

The EU Commission has announced that, as a first necessary step, it will issue a recommendation this week on whether Ukraine should be given the status of a candidate country. In Brussels, however, a conditional candidate status is expected. The Member States will have the say anyway – and they are divided.

In a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg last month, Draghi, like many eastern EU states, advocated eastward enlargement of the EU. Scholz and Macron were more reserved. Along with the Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal, France is seen as a skeptic about Kiev’s EU prospects.

Further promises of arms deliveries for the Ukrainian army in the fight against Russian troops were also expected. The United States announced another $1 billion (€960 billion) aid package for Kyiv on Wednesday. This brings the value of US arms shipments since the start of the Russian invasion to a total of $5.6 billion.

The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, raised expectations of Germany once again. The Ukrainians hoped that the significance of Scholz’s visit would not only be “symbolic” but “groundbreaking”, he told the online edition of the “Rheinische Post”. Germany’s military aid must be raised “to a qualitatively new level”.

Meanwhile, President Zelenskyy thanked the United States for the new aid in a telephone call with US President Joe Biden. These are “particularly important for our defense in the Donbass”. For several weeks, fighting there has been concentrated in the industrial city of Sievjerodonetsk. Moscow appears to be on the verge of taking control of the entire city.

Russian troops destroyed three bridges that previously connected Sieverodonetsk with Lysychansk to the west. The remaining Ukrainian defenders in the city are now largely cut off. The war also continued in other parts of the country. Four people were killed in a Russian missile attack in the north-eastern Sumy region, according to the local governor.

AFP

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