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‘Unity’: Macron, Scholz, Draghi in Kyiv for crunch Zelensky talks


French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi arrived in Kyiv on Thursday morning to send a “message of unity” and for talks with president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The trio travelled together on an overnight train provided by the Ukrainian authorities, and held lengthy meetings in the dining car until after midnight.

Upon arrival in Kyiv, Macron said: “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 they would visit sites where attacks occurred and will speak with Ukrainian officials about “both the present and the future”.

They are set to be joined by Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis for talks with Zelensky that are expected to focus on Ukraine’s bid to join the EU and further supplies of arms to help repel Russian forces.

The historic visit to Ukraine’s capital comes amid criticism of the three leaders that they have not done enough to support Ukraine since Vladimir Putin’s troops invaded the country in late February.

Kyiv has previously said the trio of countries have been slow to deliver weapons and of putting their own prosperity ahead of Ukraine‘s freedom and security.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelenskiy, told German newspaper Bild this week he was concerned the three leaders would put pressure on Kyiv to accept a peace deal favourable to Putin.

Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk speaks with French president Emmanuel Macron after welcoming him as he arrives at train station in Kyiv

(REUTERS)

“They will say that we need to end the war that is causing food problems and economic problems…that we need to save Mr Putin’s face,” he said, referring to comments by Macron this month that it was vital not to humiliate the Russian leader.

Addressing this concern, Draghi said on Tuesday it was important for peace talks to open as soon as possible, but added they had to be “on terms that Ukraine deems acceptable”.

Ukraine has been particularly critical of Germany’s military aid and the country’s ambassador to Berlin, Andrij Melnyk, told German broadcaster NTV he expected Scholz to hand over heavy weapons that had been long-promised but not yet delivered.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz leaves his hotel in Kyiv

(AP)

Scholz has dismissed allegations he has held back much-needed military support, saying Germany was one of the biggest military and financial backers of Ukraine, and that it was taking time to train Ukrainian soldiers to use the sophisticated artillery systems that it was offering.

In terms of Ukraine’s aspirations to join the EU, the European Commission is due to make a recommendation on Friday on Ukraine‘s status as a suitable 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,” a French official said.

The visit was not welcomed by Russia though.

Dmitry Medvedev, the former president of Russia, tweeted that “European fans of frogs, liverwurst and spaghetti love visiting Kiev. With zero use.”

He continued his online rant by claiming the leaders’ visit would not bring peace to Ukraine.

Additional reporting by agencies

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