Ukraine weighs up influence of EU leaders’ journey to Kyiv


It was a go to fraught with symbolism — the primary time leaders of the EU’s three greatest economies had come to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As tokens of solidarity go, it might hardly have been extra convincing.

French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi didn’t simply have heat phrases for Ukraine — in addition they backed its bid to affix the EU.

But as soon as the euphoria wore off, some Ukrainians questioned whether or not the go to of the three leaders, who have been additionally joined by Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis, marked a triumph of ceremony over substance.

Andriy Melnyk, Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin, summed up the ambivalence. EU membership for Ukraine lay far off sooner or later, he instructed Germany’s ZDF TV on Thursday. “But right now what we need is to survive,” he mentioned. “And for that we need heavy weapons.”

Anyone hoping the go to would break the logjam within the supply of such equipment may have been upset. The solely new pledge got here from Macron, who mentioned France would provide six further Caesar howitzers, on high of the 12 it has already given Ukraine.

Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian overseas minister, mentioned Kyiv was grateful for the army assist it had obtained thus far. But it was “not enough to win the war”, he mentioned. “We need hundreds more multiple rocket-launchers, armoured vehicles, tanks, drones and ammunition. Every day these decisions are delayed costs us lives.”

But though there was scant progress on army help, Scholz and Macron took the possibility to precise publicly their unalloyed assist for Ukraine and to dispel the impression — widespread in Kyiv and another capitals — that their dedication was halfhearted.

For Macron it was an opportunity to put to relaxation the accusation from some home critics that he’s too tender on Russia — a cost that re-emerged earlier this month when he warned the west to not “humiliate” Moscow and pressured the necessity for dialogue with Russian president Vladimir Putin. In Kyiv he explicitly mentioned Ukraine should “win the war”.

“I think he’s changed the way he approaches this and rejoined the mainstream,” mentioned Michel Duclos, a former French diplomat who’s now adviser to the Institut Montaigne think-tank.

Danylo Lubkivsky, director of the Kyiv Security Forum think-tank, mentioned: “I hope this visit will have helped Macron and Scholz to understand that their role is not as a mediator between Ukraine and Russia, but to be an ironclad ally of Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, Scholz obtained uncommon reward following the Kyiv journey from German tabloid Bild, which has sniped at him for weeks over his obvious reluctance to go to Kyiv or give Ukraine the weapons it says it wants. Friday’s entrance web page headline learn: “At last, chancellor!”, above {a photograph} of the German chief and Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy shaking arms.

“That Scholz ended his speech [in Kyiv] with the words “Slava Ukraine” [Glory to Ukraine] — that’s highly effective,” the paper mentioned in an editorial.

Draghi had lower than Scholz and Macron to show. The Italian chief has decisively damaged with Italy’s conventional pro-Russian tilt and was an early backer of Ukraine’s EU aspirations, pledging Rome’s assist for its candidacy in March.

But the endorsement of Ukraine’s EU membership bid by all three leaders had huge symbolic significance, mentioned Stefano Stefanini, Italy’s former ambassador to Nato.

“I realise that this is little comfort to Ukrainians fighting in the Donbas right now, but the EU . . . put the [bloc’s] credibility on the line for Ukraine’s survival as an independent and viable state,” he mentioned.

On Friday, the European Commission took the following step and really useful that every one EU leaders endorse Ukraine’s candidacy. “We want [the Ukrainians] to live with us the European dream,” mentioned fee president Ursula von der Leyen.

There is not any assure EU leaders assembly at a summit in Brussels subsequent week will comply with the advice. Even in the event that they do, it will likely be a protracted haul. The EU’s latest member, Croatia joined the bloc in 2013, 9 years after being granted candidate standing, whereas North Macedonia remains to be ready 17 years after changing into a candidate nation.

In Kyiv, the leaders additionally mentioned a attainable new bundle of sanctions towards Russia, which might be the EU’s seventh, and easy methods to deal with the meals disaster attributable to Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports, Ukraine’s overseas minister Kuleba mentioned.

But the difficulty of weapons continues to loom over relations between Ukraine and its allies. Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted earlier this month that Ukraine wanted 1,000 howitzers, 300 a number of rocket launchers, 500 tanks, 2,000 armoured automobiles and 1,000 drones to realize parity with Russia and “end the war”. The gear western nations have dedicated to offer thus far falls far quick.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg mentioned on Thursday the western defence alliance was drawing up a “comprehensive assistance package” for Kyiv. But he acknowledged there have been “challenges” with supplying such a lot of gear in a brief house of time.

Western officers try to handle Ukrainian expectations. “Our discussions with the Ukrainians are: ‘you give us a shopping list, but we need to train you and help you help yourselves’,” UK defence secretary Ben Wallace mentioned on the sidelines of a Nato assembly on Thursday.

“We’re not directing their war,” he added. “[But] it’s not just about a shopping list. You need the ingredients, the cookbook, to make it into a meal.”

On Friday, the UK supplied a few of these substances, providing to launch a coaching programme for Ukrainian troops with the potential to coach as much as 10,000 troopers each 120 days.

But the western caveats haven’t satisfied some Ukrainian officers, who proceed to induce allies — notably Germany — to step up weapons deliveries.

“There are still no heavy weapons from Germany in use in Ukraine,” Melnyk instructed ZDF. “It’s all about speed — we have no time, we can’t afford to wait [for] this.”

Additional reporting by Victor Mallet in Paris and Henry Foy in Brussels

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