In war-torn Kyiv, EU leaders embrace Ukraine membership bid

Published June 17, 2022
KYIV: President Volodymyr Zelensky and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron shake hands after a press conference.—AFP
KYIV: President Volodymyr Zelensky and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron shake hands after a press conference.—AFP

KYIV: The European Union’s most powerful leaders on Thursday embraced Ukraine’s bid to be accepted as a candidate for EU membership, in a powerful symbol of support in Kyiv’s battle against Russia’s invasion.

French President Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian premier Mario Draghi arrived in Ukraine by train and headed to the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, scene of fierce battles early in the brutal war.

They were later joined in Kyiv by Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis and met their Ukrainian counterpart Volody­myr Zelensky, who has been lobbying his western allies for most and faster weapons deliveries and the promise of a European future.

“All four of us support the status of immediate candidate for accession,” Macron told a joint press conference with his EU colleagues.

Draghi agreed: “The most important message of our visit is that Italy wants Ukraine in the EU.”

Scholz said Ukraine “belongs in the European family” and vowed: “We are supporting Ukraine with the deliveries of weapons. We will keep doing that for as long as it is needed.”

Zelensky promised Ukra­ine was ready to put in the work to become a fully-fledged EU member, and said Ukrainians had already proved themselves worthy of candidate status.

“I explained our essential needs in the field of defence,” Zelensky said after meeting the visiting leaders. “We are expecting new deliveries, above all heavy weapons, modern artillery, anti-aircraft defence systems,” he said, even as Macron said France would send six Caesar self-propelled howitzers to add to the 12 already deployed on Ukraine’s eastern front.

Earlier, on a tour of Irpin, Macron had declared: “France has been alongside Ukraine since day one. We stand with the Ukrainians without ambiguity. Ukraine must resist and win.”

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.

Published in Dawn,June 17th, 2022

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