Leaders of the European Union’s three largest countries – France, Germany and Italy – arrived in Kyiv on Thursday morning for a high-profile trip intended to ease tensions over what Ukrainian officials perceive as support lukewarm in their fight against Russia.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi traveled to the city together on a special train, leaving Poland in the middle of the night.
As if to remind them that they were visiting a country terrorized by an unprovoked assault, the air raid sirens went off shortly after the three leaders arrived at their hotel in central Kyiv.
Although the three countries have pledged weapons to help defend Ukraine against Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made no secret of the fact that he thinks they are not doing enough.
He was particularly critical of Scholz and Macron, going so far as to suggest the two leaders were trying to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“[Scholz] and his government must choose not to balance Ukraine and the Russian Federation, but to choose what their priority is,” Zelensky told German broadcaster ZDF earlier this week.
Zelensky also had harsh words for Macron. The French president tried to present himself both as an ally of Ukraine and as an honest intermediary with Russia.
Macron, in an interview earlier this month, said that “we must not humiliate Russia so that the day the fighting stops, we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means. I am convinced that this is the France’s role of being a mediating power”.
Zelensky told the Financial Times that “to be a leader, you don’t need to think of yourself as a leader, you need to behave like a leader.”
Speaking to reporters at the Kyiv train station, Macron said the leaders would visit a “war site where the massacres were committed” and speak to Zelensky.
When asked if he had a message for Ukrainians, he replied: “A message of European unity to Ukrainian men and women, of support to talk about both the present and the future because the coming weeks, we know, will be very difficult weeks. I want to be in support and by their side.”