Macron says Ukraine must ‘resist and win’ war against Russia

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It was a long-awaited visit and it comes at a critical time. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrived in Kyiv this morning on a train, the first trip for all three since Russia launched the invasion on last February 24.

The leaders of the first three economies of the EU have wanted to stage a message of support for Ukraine, in an atmosphere of growing tension with the government of President Volodímir Zelenski. While Russia is gaining ground in the east and south of the country, Kyiv has intensified its requests for military support from Western allies and has raised the tone of its criticism of Berlin and Paris, which it accuses of being lukewarm towards Vladimir Putin and even of trying to negotiate peace behind the backs of the Ukrainians.



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Scholz, Macron and Draghi are already in Kyiv to talk about the future of Ukraine


“It is an important moment,” Macron declared, from the same platform in Kyiv. “We want to send a message of European unity addressed to Ukrainian women and men. Of support, to talk about the present and the future at the same time, because the weeks to come will be very difficult”, he warned.

The three leaders, who were joined by the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, who arrived on another train from his country, went to Irpin, one of the towns on the outskirts of Kyiv that symbolizes both the cruelty of the Russian troops and the Ukrainian resistance, which repelled the invaders. The images broadcast on television showed the European leaders, with serious expression, among the devastation of Irpin. “We have seen the first traces of war crimes,” said Macron, who also praised the heroism of the Ukrainians.

“France has been at Ukraine’s side from day one. We stand with the Ukrainians without ambiguity. Ukraine must resist and win,” said the French president.

TOPSHOT - Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (C) attend a visit with German Chancellor (unseen) in Irpin on June 16, 2022. - It is the first time that the leaders of the three European Union countries have visited Kyiv since Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine.  They are due to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, at a time when Kyiv is pushing for membership of the EU.  (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

Draghi and Macron, during their visit to Irpin

AFP

The European leaders have then gone to the presidential palace, where they are meeting with Zelensky. They will then offer a press conference.

The visit, which for security reasons was not officially confirmed until European leaders were on their way to the Ukrainian capital on an overnight train, comes the day before a momentous announcement for Ukraine. The European Commission rules tomorrow on whether he should be granted candidate status, a decision that European leaders will debate at a summit in Brussels next week. Although it is only the first stone of a process that usually lasts for years, it has a great symbolic dimension. Everything indicates that Ukraine will receive the long-awaited green light, conditional on a series of reforms to strengthen the rule of law and the fight against corruption.

Europe reacted with surprising unity to the Russian invasion, taking steps that seemed unthinkable just weeks before. It swiftly passed several unprecedented sanctions packages, shipped weapons and even ripped up energy deals with Russia. But with the passing of the months and the consequences of the war being felt both in the state coffers and in the pockets of the citizens, the initial united front is cracking.

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French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in Irpín, Ukraine, this Thursday (AFP)

The fissures between the countries of Eastern and Western Europe have always been there, but in recent weeks they have become more visible. Russia’s neighboring countries, with a communist past, see Putin as an existential threat and favor a tough response (with the exception of Hungary and Bulgaria). On the other side of the continent, on the other hand, voices are growing that defend a pragmatic solution, even at the cost of painful concessions for the Ukrainians.

Macron caused outrage by defending that a diplomatic solution had to be achieved that “would not humiliate” Russia, statements that he has later tried to qualify. They reflect, however, an opposite way of understanding what Europe’s relationship with Moscow should be.

“President Draghi has always called for all efforts to help reach a ceasefire as soon as possible and give a new impetus to the peace negotiations. He has insisted many times that it will have to be Ukraine, and no one else, who decides what It accepts peace. It is not an imposed peace. Among other reasons, because a peace that was not acceptable to Ukraine would not be sustainable either,” sources from the Italian government declared.

Ukrainian authorities have long pressed for Macron to visit the country before the French presidency of the EU Council ends in late June. The French president had said that he would visit Ukraine when the time was right. Until now the German chancellor had also resisted. Olaf Scholz had said that he would not go alone to take the photo.

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