ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

EU leaders visit Ukraine in show of support after criticism

On the battlefield, Ukrainian officials said their troops were still holding out against massive Russian bombardment in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, and described new progress in a counteroffensive in the south.

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv region
A damaged tram is pictured at a shelled tram depot in Kharkiv, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, on June 15, 2022.
IVAN ALVARADO/REUTERS
We are part of The Trust Project.

KYIV — The leaders of Germany, France and Italy — all criticized in the past by Kyiv for support viewed as too cautious — made a joint visit on Thursday to show solidarity with Ukraine, where officials pleaded for more Western arms.

"It's an important moment. It's a message of unity we're sending to the Ukrainians," French President Emmanuel Macron said after pulling into Kyiv on an overnight train along with Germany's Olaf Scholz and Italy's Mario Draghi. They were also joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

More from Ukraine
Russia's invasion, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has seen more than 6.5 million people flee abroad, turned entire cities into rubble and brought down severe economic sanctions on Moscow.
The cause of the blasts was not immediately clear, although Russia later said it had hit army command posts in the area. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
Russia said it had decided to withdraw from the outcrop off Ukraine's southwestern coast as a "gesture of goodwill" to show Moscow was not obstructing U.N. attempts to open a humanitarian corridor allowing grains to be shipped from Ukraine.
Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying he could not rule out that tensions would emerge in Moscow's relations with Helsinki and Stockholm over their joining NATO.
Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš met with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz Wednesday ahead of a six-day Latvian song and dance festival in St. Paul.
The attack in the central city of Kremenchuk and the reported strike in the Dnipropetrovsk region were far from any frontlines. The mall attack drew a wave of global condemnation, with France's Emmanuel Macron calling it a "war crime."
Leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies, meeting at a German alpine resort, said they would keep sanctions on Russia for as long as necessary and intensify international pressure on President Vladimir Putin's government and its ally Belarus.
Russia has stepped up air strikes on Ukraine this weekend, which has also seen the fall of a strategic eastern city to pro-Russian forces.
Ukraine called its retreat from the city a "tactical withdrawal" to fight from higher ground in Lysychansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets river.
On June 22, the owl center opened up an online auction selling art sent into the center by Ukrainian children as a part of an international art content; the money raised will be donated to children and families in Ukraine through UNICEF.

On the battlefield, Ukrainian officials said their troops were still holding out against massive Russian bombardment in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, and described new progress in a counteroffensive in the south.

But they said battles on both main fronts depended on receiving more aid from the West, especially artillery to counter Russia's big advantage in firepower.

"Every day, I struggle for Ukraine to get the weapons and equipment it needs," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation.

ADVERTISEMENT

Air raid sirens blared in Kyiv as the visit by the European leaders got under way. They toured Irpin, a town northeast of the capital devastated early in the war, where withdrawing Russian forces once left behind bodies littering the streets.

Noting graffiti on a wall that read "Make Europe, not war," Macron said: "It's very moving to see that. This is the right message."

The visit had taken weeks to organize, while the three most powerful EU leaders all fended off criticism over positions described as too deferential to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Still, the move by the three to travel together held strong symbolism at a pivotal moment — a day before the EU's executive commission is expected to recommend pushing forward with Ukraine's bid to join the bloc, which EU leaders are expected to endorse at a summit next week.

NATO defense ministers were also meeting in Brussels, expected to announce more promises of weapons for Kyiv. U.S. President Joe Biden pledged $1 billion worth of new aid on Wednesday, including anti-ship rocket systems, artillery rockets and rounds for howitzers.

Macron, Scholz, Draghi and Iohannis visit Ukraine
France's President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visit Irpin, Ukraine on June 16, 2022.
POOL/REUTERS

'SAVE MR PUTIN'S FACE'

Scholz, Macron and Draghi all say they are strong supporters of Ukraine who have taken major practical steps to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy and find weapons to help Kyiv.

But Ukraine has long criticized Scholz over what it regards as Germany's slow delivery of weapons and reluctance to sever economic ties with Moscow, and was furious this month at Macron for saying in an interview that Russia must not be "humiliated."

ADVERTISEMENT

Italy has also proposed a peace plan, which Ukrainians fear could lead to pressure on them to give up territory.

"They will say that we need to end the war that is causing food problems and economic problems...that we need to save Mr Putin's face," Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelenskyy, told German newspaper Bild prior to the visit.

Ukraine is taking hundreds of casualties a day as the war has entered a brutal attritional phase in the east. Kyiv says it urgently needs more weapons, especially artillery and rockets, to counter Russia's firepower advantange.

After Moscow launched its "special military operation" claiming its aim was to disarm and "denazify" its neighbor, Ukraine repelled an armored assault on Kyiv in March.

Since then, however, Russia has shifted its aims and its tactics, now trying to seize more ground in the east with advances behind massive artillery bombardments, and fortify its grip over captured territory in the south.

UPDATED UKRAINE WEB MAP

The main battle in recent weeks has been over the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, where Ukrainian forces are now holed up in a chemical factory with hundreds of civilians. They ignored a Russian order to surrender on Wednesday.

"There were battles during the night. Our guys are holding the line of defense. Every day it becomes more and more difficult because the Russians are pulling more and more weapons into the city, and trying to storm it from several directions," Sievierodonetsk mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said on Thursday.

All remaining bridges linking the city with Ukrainian-held territory on the opposite bank of Siverskyi Donets river were destroyed in recent days, but Ukrainian officials say the garrison is still not completely cut-off.

ADVERTISEMENT

An airstrike on Thursday hit a building sheltering civilians in Lysychansk, on the other side of the river, killing at least three and wounding at least seven according to local governor Serhiy Gaidai.

"We are pulling apart the rubble," Gaidai said on Telegram.

In the south, Ukraine says its forces have been making inroads into Kherson province, which Russia occupied early in its invasion. There has been little independent reporting to confirm battlefield positions in the area.

Zelenskyy's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, tweeted that he had visited an area just 3-4 km from Russian positions, where dozens of "ghost villages" were depopulated by the combat.

"Our guys on the ground — the mood is fighting. Even with limited resources, we are pushing back the enemy. One thing is missing — long-range weapons. In any case, we will throw them out of the south," he wrote.

The war has caused global economic disruption and surging prices for food and energy. Despite sanctions, Europe still depends on Russia for natural gas.

Deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany have declined in recent days, raising concern about storing supplies for winter, with Moscow blaming sanctions that have held up delivery of equipment sent abroad for repair.

(Additional reporting by Reuters bureaus; writing by Peter Graff; editing by Angus MacSwan.)

French President Emmanuel Macron visits Moldova
French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Moldova's President Maia Sandu, in Chisinau, Moldova, on June 15, 2022.
POOL/REUTERS

______________________________________________________

This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

Related Topics: UKRAINERUSSIAWAR
What to read next
Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odesa regional administration, said 21 people had been confirmed killed, including a 12-year-old boy. Among the fatalities was an employee of the Children's Rehabilitation Center set up by Ukraine's neighbor Moldova in the resort.
Pictures circulating on social media, still unverified by authorities, showed the bodies of youths lying scattered across the floor of the tavern, some also seen motionless on tables and couches.
Authorities said the suspect, a 42-year-old Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin, was believed to be a radicalized Islamist with a history of mental illness who had been known to intelligence services since 2015.
The Russian advances appeared to bring the Kremlin closer to taking full control of Luhansk province, one of Moscow's stated war objectives, and set the stage for Lysychansk to become the main frontline city on that front.