Leaders pledge arms and EU path for Ukraine in Kyiv visit

  • Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron view a damaged car Thursday as they visit Irpin, outside Kyiv. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Four European leaders expressed their support for Ukraine on Thursday while meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, vowing to back Kyiv’s candidacy to eventually join the European Union and offering more weapons to fend off Russia’s invasion.

French President Emmanuel Macron promised Ukraine six more truck-mounted artillery guns, the latest in a new round of Western arms pledges as the war grinds on in the Donbas region in the east.

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France, Germany, Italy and Romania “are doing everything so that Ukraine alone can decide its fate,” Macron said at a news conference with Zelenskyy and the others.

“My colleagues and I have come here to Kyiv today with a clear message: Ukraine belongs to the European family,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Amid Ukrainian fears that Western resolve could wane, the visit carried heavy symbolism. France, Germany and Italy have all faced criticism for continuing to engage with Russian President Vladimir Putin — and failing to give Kyiv the weaponry it says its needs.

With Scholz beside him, Macron defended earlier comments that riled Ukrainians about not humiliating Russia, solemnly noting how the end of World War I had sown the seeds of World War II.

“We are side by side today with Chancellor Scholz. One hundred years ago, we were at war and allies helped France win. France committed a historic mistake. It lost the peace because it wanted to humiliate Germany. The question of humiliation I always placed in a context to come, not the current context,” he said.

“Today, this war must be won, France clearly supports Ukraine so it prevails,” Macron said. “Germany, like France, will never be in situations where they negotiate on Ukraine’s behalf with Russia. Moreover, we have never done that.”

In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said it was important for him to hear that European leaders “agree the end of the war and peace for Ukraine should be as Ukraine sees them.” He said Ukrainians will continue to fight for all of their land.

Ukrainians and some of their European neighbors have been afraid that Western powers might press for territorial concessions for the sake of peace.

Scholz reiterated that there is no such intent to dictate anything to Ukrainians, and that only they “can decide what is right in terms of an agreement on a peace which we are unfortunately very, very far away from.”

Italian Premier Mario Draghi expressed concern about millions of tons of grain backed up in Black Sea ports by the war, saying it could bring “worldwide catastrophe.” Italy has been a first destination for African migrants and could find itself overwhelmed as a result of largescale hunger in the Southern Hemisphere.

“We want the atrocities to stop and we want peace,” Draghi said. “But Ukraine must defend itself, and it will be Ukraine that chooses the peace it wants.”

The leaders also visited Irpin, a Kyiv suburb that saw intense fighting and where many civilians were killed. They decried the destruction there, with Macron saying he saw signs of “war crimes.”

While shocking images of such devastation have rallied Western support, Ukrainian officials have expressed concern that “war fatigue” could eventually erode that — particularly as rising prices and upcoming U.S. elections increasingly dominating public concerns.

The U.S. and its European allies have given billions of dollars in weaponry to Ukraine, and Germany and the U.S. recently announced new arms shipments. Such arms have been crucial in preventing the Russians from taking the capital, but Kyiv has said much more will be needed.

“Russia is only looking for new ways to scare Europe and seize more and more of our land,” Zelenskyy said at the news conference. “The goal of Russia in this war is to break Ukraine and through this break the whole of Europe.”

While the European leaders were in Kyiv, NATO defense ministers were meeting in Brussels to discuss plans for strengthening the military alliance’s eastern borders to dissuade Russia from planning any further aggression.

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