German, French and Italian leaders have visited Kyiv to send a “message of unity” to Ukraine, as officials push for more weapons to be sent to the country.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi took an overnight train, on a secret trip which reportedly took months to plan.
All three have faced criticism over their approach to Ukraine, with Macron having met and spoken to Russian president Vladimir Putin around 20 times. Germany has been accused of continuing to buy Russian fuel, which has helped to fund the war.
This comes as Russia continues to bombard the eastern region of Donetsk, with a particular focus on encircling major strategic cities such as Sievierodonetsk. On Wednesday, Ukrainian forces were holed up in a chemical factory in the city. Russia has said it will offer an escape route for civilians but so far nothing has been agreed.
Upon arriving at the station, Macron said:” It’s an important moment. It’s a message of unity we’re sending to the Ukrainians.”
The visit comes as NATO defence chiefs met in Brussels ahead of an expected announcement of defence support for Kyiv. This comes in wake of President Joe Biden announce $1bn worth of aid on Wednesday this week.
The three leaders were pictured on the train in casual clothing around a table, and all said they were strong supporters of the country, and had been taking steps to assist the war effort and gold the Kremlin to account with sanctions.
Ukraine has in particular criticised Germany for slow delivery of weapons and Macron for saying Russia must not be “humiliated” and should be given an exit route.
While the trio were in Kyiv, defence ministers also took part in a meeting with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, which was “extremely focussed” on ramping up support for Kyiv.
Ukraine’s president Zelensky has repeatedly praised UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited Kyiv two months ago. The embattled Ukrainian leader tweeted yesterday he was in “constant contact” to discuss “coordinated positions on the eve of important international events. Discussed the situation on the battlefield, Ukraine’s defense needs and threats to food security.”
Later this month, Group of Seven (G7) leaders are set to convene with Ukraine and the impact of the war on the global economy being a major talking point.