EU leaders visit Ukraine after criticism, offer EU hope -Breaking
© Reuters. In the Donetsk Region, Ukraine’s June 15th 2022, experts work in a crater left by a Russian missile attack. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Natalia Zinets & Simon Lewis
KYIV/IRPIN Ukraine (Reuters). -The heads of Germany, France, and Italy, each of whom were previously criticised for their cautiousness, visited Ukraine this Thursday. They offered EU membership and the prospect of a nation begging for weapons in order to fend of Russia’s incursion.
In Kyiv were heard sirens of air raid as President Emmanuel Macron from France, Germany and Olaf Scholz, the Italian presidents, began. They then visited a local town which was badly damaged in wartime.
Following talks with Volodymyr Zelenskiy the Ukrainian president, leaders indicated that Ukraine should receive European Union candidate status. This symbolic gesture would bring Kyiv closer towards the bloc.
Scholz claimed that Germany had accepted 800,000 refugees from Ukraine and will continue to provide support for Ukraine until it is needed.
He said, “Ukraine is part of the European family.”
Officials from Ukraine claimed that their troops held out against Russian bombing in Sievierodonetsk’s eastern suburb, but they also described progress in counteroffensives in the south.
They said that both fronts would be able to win if the West provided more assistance, particularly artillery to combat Russia’s huge firepower advantage.
Following talks with European counterparts Zelenskiy expressed gratitude for the assistance he received. He said that he expected new deliveries of heavy weapons and modern rocket artillery as well as anti-missile defense systems.
He said, “There’s a direct correlation. The stronger our weapons, the faster our people can be liberated from their land.”
Macron stated that France will increase arms delivery to Kyiv and NATO defense ministers met in Brussels. They were expected to also promise additional weapons.
DEPENDENCY ON RUSSIAN GASS
Europe’s leaders tried to show solidarity with Ukraine but Russia’s dependence on it for large amounts of energy supply was exposed. In recent days, a pipeline that transports gas from Russia fell.
Moscow claimed that Western sanctions were holding back equipment being sent overseas for repairs, but Germany and Italy rejected Russia’s explanation. This has caused concern about winter supplies.
We believe these lies. They are actually using gas for political purposes, just like grain is used to make political decisions,” Draghi from Italy said.
Russia claims that sanctions are affecting grain shipment and has laid mines in Ukraine. It denies any responsibility for the emerging food crisis.
It took several weeks for the EU’s three top leaders to arrange a visit to Ukraine. They also had to deal with criticism because they were too open to Vladimir Putin. Some critics compared Macron’s visit to Ukraine with that of Boris Johnson in Britain, who was there more than two years ago.
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis was also present as the leader of the delegation. Klaus Iohannis toured Irpin in northeastern Romania, where the Russian withdrawal forces had left behind bodies and streets.
Macron noted graffiti that said “Make Europe not war” on a wall and said that it was very touching to see. This message is important.”
Draghi and Macron all claim they stand by Ukraine, are staunch supporters and have taken steps to lessen Europe’s dependence upon Russia and found weapons to aid Kyiv.
However, Ukraine had long criticized Scholz for what it considers Germany’s slow weapons delivery and refusal to cut economic ties. This month Macron was furious at Ukraine for saying that Russia should not be “humiliated”.
Italy also offered a peace plan that Ukrainians worry could put them under pressure to cede territory.
Following the discussions in Kyiv Macron stated that a communication channel with Putin was needed.
Ukraine suffers hundreds of casualties each day, as the war in the east enters an attritional phase.
Moscow had launched its “specially military operation”, claiming it was meant to “denazify” and disarm its neighbor. In March, Ukraine defeated an armoured attack on Kyiv.
Russia’s tactics and aims have changed since then. Russia now seeks to seize ground in the east through massive artillery bombardments and strengthen its hold on captured territories in the south.
Recent weeks have seen the battle for Sievierodonetsk (the eastern city) as the focus of Ukrainian forces encamped in a chemical facility with hundreds civilians.
Oleksandr Stryuk, Sievierodonetsk’s mayor, stated that “every day it becomes more challenging because the Russians pull more and more weapons into it and try to storm it from many directions.”
Regional governor Serhiy Giaidai stated that an airstrike hit a Lysychansk sheltering civilians, killing three of them and injuring seven others.
The south of Ukraine claims that its forces are making progress into Kherson, which Russia has occupied since its invasion. It is not clear if there has been any independent verification of battlefield positions.
Zelenskiy’s chief-of-staff, Andriy Yarmak tweeted that he had traveled to an area 3-4km from Russian positions. Here, many “ghost villages”, were destroyed in the fighting.
“Our troops on the ground, the mood is fighting. We are rebuffing the enemy, even with very limited resources. The enemy is lacking long-range weaponry. He wrote, “In any event, they will be thrown out of the South.”