The leaders of France, Germany and Italy arrived in Ukraine on Thursday, travelling from the border with Poland by train to Kyiv.
The trio is in Ukraine to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss the country’s EU membership aspirations and further arms supplies to repel Russia’s invasion. Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis will join them for the talks.
Zelenskyy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak welcomed their arrival, saying “food security, weapons and support for Ukraine are important topics for discussion.”
“We expect support for Ukraine’s application for EU [membership] candidate status,” Yermak added in the Telegram channel post.
Soon after the European leaders reached the capital, air raid sirens rang out in the city and across Ukraine, warning of possible missile strikes.
Russia’s armed forces have conducted almost daily missile strikes on Ukrainian military sites and infrastructure since President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of the country on February 24.
At the start of the visit, Macron, said the European leaders were bringing “a message of European unity and support for the Ukrainian people, to talk of the present and the future because we know the weeks ahead will be very difficult”.
Oleksandr Kamyshin, head of Ukraine’s state railway, posted a photograph on his Telegram channel showing French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi on the special train bound for Ukraine.
The European Commission is expected to recommend on Friday that Ukraine should be granted EU candidate status, a first step towards membership, although there will be conditions on improving the rule of law and tackling corruption.
Germany, France and Italy are the largest economies in the EU, and France currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
Macron said on Wednesday before heading to Kyiv: “I think we’re at a moment when we, the EU, need to send clear political signals to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people as they have been heroically resisting for several months.”
The French president has been accused by some European allies of being too accommodating to Putin by saying Russia must not be “humiliated”. But he insisted on Wednesday he was in constant touch with Zelenskyy about the situation, emphasising that even after the war Russia would remain a power that could not be ignored.
“Let’s have the common sense to say that we are not waging war against Russia,” Macron said. “The only desirable outcome of the conflict is either a Ukrainian military victory or at some point a negotiation because there will have been a ceasefire, which could allow for an agreement between Ukraine and Russia.”
Meanwhile, Nato defence ministers will discuss further arms deliveries for Ukraine, which has complained of a shortage of the long-range and heavy-calibre artillery needed to fight advancing Russian forces in the eastern Donbas and southern coastal regions.
US president Joe Biden said on Wednesday the US would provide an additional $1bn in security assistance to Kyiv, including artillery, coastal defence and advanced rocket systems.