Britain will host talks on rebuilding key infrastructure in kyiv on Friday, a day after the leaders of Germany, France and Italy visited Ukraine and offered the hope of entering into the EU while fighting a fierce Russian offensive in the east. Air-raid sirens sounded as French President Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Olaf Scholz and Italy’s Mario Draghi visited the Ukrainian capital and a nearby city shattered early in the war. After holding talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky, the leaders said Ukraine should be given EU candidate status, a symbolic gesture that would bring kyiv closer to the economic bloc.
Scholz said that Germany had taken in 800,000 Ukrainian refugees and would continue to support Ukraine as long as it needed it.
“Ukraine belongs to the European family,” he said.
Britain will host Ukrainian representatives and business leaders on Friday to discuss how British companies can help rebuild key infrastructure in kyiv.
It will also promote collaboration between its infrastructure, energy and transport companies, and Ukrainian public and private organizations to help repair damaged and destroyed infrastructure. On the battlefield, Ukrainian officials said their troops were resisting massive Russian bombardment of the eastern city of Severodonetsk, describing further progress in a counteroffensive in the south. But they said battles on both main fronts depended on getting more help from the West, especially artillery to counter Russia’s huge advantage in firepower.
“We appreciate the support already provided by partners, we expect new deliveries, mainly heavy weapons, modern missile artillery, anti-missile defense systems,” Zelensky said Thursday after talks with his European counterparts.
Macron said France would step up arms deliveries to kyiv, while NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels promised more weapons for Ukraine as they made plans to bolster the eastern flank of the US-led military alliance.
MAKE EUROPE, NOT WAR
The visit to Ukraine of the three most powerful EU leaders had taken weeks to organize, as they fended off criticism for their positions, described by some as too deferential to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The leaders, joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, toured the devastated Irpin shortly after the invasion began on February 24.
Noting graffiti on a wall reading “Make Europe, not war,” Macron said: “It’s very moving to see that. It’s the right message.” Putin has repeatedly said the main immediate motive for what he calls a “special military operation” was to protect Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine from persecution and attacks. Both Scholz, Macron and Draghi are outspoken supporters of Ukraine and have taken practical steps to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian energy and find weapons to help kyiv. Ukraine, however, has long criticized Scholz for Germany’s alleged slowness in delivering weapons and reluctance to sever economic ties with Moscow, and angered Macron this month for saying in an interview that one should not “humiliate “to Russia.
Italy has also proposed a peace plan that the Ukrainians fear could lead to pressure on them to cede territory. Following the talks in kyiv, Macron said some kind of communication channel with Putin was still necessary.
In the south, Ukraine says its forces have been advancing into Kherson province, which Russia occupied early in its invasion. There have been few independent reports confirming battlefield positions in the area.
Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, wrote on Twitter that he had visited an area some 3-4 kilometers from the Russian positions, where dozens of “ghost towns” had been depopulated by the fighting.
“Our guys on the ground: the mood is fighting. Even with limited resources, we are driving the enemy back. One thing is missing: long-range weapons. In any case, we will drive them out of the south,” he wrote. The main battle in recent weeks has been in the eastern city of Severodonetsk, where Ukrainian forces have taken refuge in a chemical factory with hundreds of civilians.
“Every day it is more difficult because the Russians are bringing more and more weapons into the city,” Severodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said.
On Thursday, an airstrike hit a building housing civilians in Lisychansk, across the river, causing at least four deaths and seven injuries, regional governor Serhi Gaidai said. The Dutch intelligence service, for its part, said it had uncovered an elaborate Russian plot to place a military agent using a fake Brazilian identity at the International Criminal Court, which investigates suspected war crimes.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.