IRPIN (AFP) – The leaders of major European Union (EU) powers France, Germany and Italy vowed yesterday to help Ukraine defeat Russia and to rebuild its shattered cities, in a visit to a war-torn Kyiv suburb.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian premier Mario Draghi arrived in Ukraine by train and headed to Irpin, scene of fierce battles early in Russia’s invasion.
“France has been alongside Ukraine since day one. We stand with the Ukrainians without ambiguity. Ukraine must resist and win,” Macron told journalists.
Surrounded by the wreckage left by Ukraine’s successful but hard-fought defence of its capital in the early stages of the 113-day-old conflict, Draghi said: “We will rebuild everything.
“They destroyed kindergartens, they destroyed playgrounds. Everything will be rebuilt,” he promised.
It is the first time the three have visited Kyiv since Russia’s February 24 invasion.
Ukraine has applied to join the EU and, although no-one in Brussels expects this to be a quick process, the leaders of the bloc’s most powerful countries were expected to bring President Volodymyr Zelensky a positive message.
Kyiv is also pleading with its western allies to step up supplies of weapons to its forces, which are outgunned by Russian artillery on the frontline in east of the country.
Germany, especially, has been criticised for slow weapons deliveries, but western defence ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss what more they can do and on Wednesday United States (US) President Joe Biden announced USD1 billion worth of new arms for Ukrainian forces.
Moscow was dismissive of the European visit, and of the arms supplies.
“Supporting Ukraine by further pumping Ukraine with weapons,” warned Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov would be “absolutely useless and will cause further damage to the country”.
The new US support package includes howitzers, ammunition, anti-ship missile systems, and additional rockets for new artillery systems that Ukraine will soon put in the field.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine is focussed on the industrial city of Severodonetsk, and Russians forces appear close to consolidating control after weeks of intense battles.