The prime ministers of Germany, France, Italy and Romania had traveled overnight on a train to the Ukrainian capital
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis arrived in the Ukrainian capital kyiv by train on Thursday morning. This is the first visit for each of them since the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine at the end of February.
According to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Scholz, Macron and Draghi had to cross the Polish-Ukrainian border on foot, had slept “in berths” and held a late night “Mountain peak” in their train carriage during their 11-hour trip to Kyiv, which they flew to from Poland’s Rzeszow Jasionka airport.
The Romanian president only announced his trip to kyiv on Thursday morning when he arrived in the Ukrainian capital. Iohannis posted photos of himself getting off the train on his Twitter page. The four leaders are expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and visit the Kyiv suburb of Irpin.
“We are here, focused, and we are about to meet with President Zelensky now to visit a war site where massacres have been committed, and then to conduct planned conversations with President Zelensky,” Macron told reporters at kyiv train station. The visit is a “a message of European unity to Ukrainians”, he explained, adding that “The coming weeks are going to be very difficult” for Kyiv.
French diplomatic sources told Politico that the leaders expected Zelensky “define what a military victory would be for him.” At the same time, a French diplomatic source also indicated that a “dialogue” between Moscow and kyiv would be “needed to know how we build lasting peace” once the “war” is finished. Issues such as security guarantees for Ukraine and kyiv’s relationship with NATO need to be discussed in particular, the source added.
Another issue on the agenda is Ukraine’s potential EU candidate status. “I want us to send a clear and positive signal, but we need unanimity among EU members. I don’t think that we can dissociate Moldova from Ukraine in the perspectives that we give. Macron said, referring to the prospects of Ukraine and Moldova joining the bloc.
However, a diplomatic source told Politico’s Brussels Playbook podcast that there was “no consensus for candidate status” for Ukraine but only a consensus on a “candidate status with conditions”, which the source called “the third way” without detailing.
Relations between Kyiv and Europe are not exactly cloudless as Macron and Scholz have already come under heavy criticism from Ukraine over their stance on Kyiv’s conflict with Moscow. In early June, Macron angered kyiv by repeatedly addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone and saying it was vital that Russia not be humiliated by its actions in Ukraine.
“Calls to avoid the humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France and all the other countries that would call for it”, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba wrote on his Twitter account in response.
Scholz, who was previously reluctant to travel to Ukraine after kyiv snubbed a trip by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has been called a “offended liver sauce” by Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany Andrey Melnik. Ukrainian authorities have also repeatedly criticized Berlin for what they called its reluctance to provide Ukraine with the heavy weapons it had requested.
Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, after kyiv’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Luhansk .
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.