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European leaders meet Ukrainian President Zelenskiy in Kiev

by Anthony L. Gonzalez

The leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and Romania have met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a show of support that Kyiv hopes will be followed by more weapons and tougher action to aid in the war with Russia.

On the first visit to the capital since Russia launched its invasion, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Olaf Scholz, Italy’s Mario Draghi, and Romanian Klaus Iohannis shake hands with Zelenskiy, who has not left Ukraine since the start of the war.

European leaders meet Ukrainian President Zelenskiy in Kiev

Thursday’s meeting came after the four European leaders walked around destroyed buildings and wrecked cars in the nearby town of Irpin, the scene of heavy fighting early in the invasion.

The tour was intended to highlight what Ukraine and its supporters are saying were large-scale atrocities committed by Russian forces, which Scholz described as the scene of “unimaginable brutality” and “senseless violence”.

The leaders stood by hollowed-out, burnt-out buildings and looked stern as they listened to a Ukrainian minister explain what had happened there.

They were shown the wreckage of a car that Ukraine says had been targeted by Russian troops when a mother and children were inside. Russia denies allegations that its forces committed atrocities.

“It is a heroic city… marked by the stigma of barbarity,” Macron told reporters.

The leaders, dressed in suits but without visible protective equipment, were surrounded by heavily armed soldiers.

Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz, Mario Draghi, and Klaus Iohannis visited Irpin, a western suburb of Kyiv that was destroyed during the Russian invasion of the region

Photos by Reuters pic.twitter.com/0LG8rD7dtF

— UkraineWorld (@ukraine_world) June 16, 2022

Kyiv has accused France, Germany, and, to a lesser extent, Italy of dragging their feet on Ukraine’s support, saying they have been slow to supply weapons and placed their prosperity above Ukraine’s freedom and security.

Asked about those criticisms, Macron pointed to arms supplies and financial aid.

“France and Europe have supported Ukraine and its people since the beginning,” he said.

Ukraine’s bid to join the 27 countries of the European Union, and its demand for more weapons to fend off Russia, are expected to be the two main themes of EU leaders’ talks with Zelenskiy, who will not take them to Irpin accompanied.

On a wall of a damaged building in Irpin was a slogan that read ‘Don’t make Europe a war’; Macron said: ‘It is very moving to see that. This is the right message.”

After the leaders spoke with the mayor of Irpin and other officials, Draghi added: “A lot of what they talked about was reconstruction. Words of pain, hope, and what they want to do in the future.”

The Kremlin said leaders should use their time with Zelenskiy to take a “realistic look at the state of affairs” rather than discuss more arms deliveries to Kyiv.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian Security Council, derided the visit as “helpful” and “promised EU membership and old howitzers to Ukraine”.

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