War in Ukraine: Scholz and Draghi in kyiv on Thursday, with Macron?

Emmanuel Macron could go to kyiv on Thursday, after a visit to Romania and Moldova. According to the foreign press, he shouldn't be alone.

War in Ukraine: Scholz and Draghi in kyiv Thursday, with Macron?

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For the first time since the start of the war in Ukraine, three European heads of state could travel to kyiv on Thursday June 16 to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Emmanuel Macron, Mario Draghi and Olaf Scholz could thus go together to the Ukrainian capital. No government has confirmed the information. However, Emmanuel Macron, whose country currently chairs the European Union, sent signals to Kyiv on Wednesday, visiting a NATO base in Romania.

“I think we are at a time when we need to send clear political signals, we European Union, towards Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in a context where they have been resisting heroically for several months” , said the French president, when asked about a possible trip to kyiv.

Several Italian and German media have indicated that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi would go to the Ukrainian capital on Thursday. This trip would be a first for the leaders of the three main countries of the European Union, since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The three men are due to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss, in addition to military support, Ukraine's request to join the European Union. France, Germany and Italy are in favor of it, but in a more or less distant perspective. Ukraine expects no less from the European summit of 23-24 June the decision of the Twenty-Seven on its official application for membership, the start of a process of negotiations which may last several years. Its president should also reiterate his request for new deliveries of heavy weapons, essential, he assures, to counter the Russian firepower.

“Be with us”

“We are with you, be with us,” Volodymyr Zelensky told Czech lawmakers in Prague on a teleconference, citing an appeal made by a Czechoslovak radio presenter in 1968 as the Soviet occupiers attempted to shut down the radio. “Today, as the people of Ukraine struggle for their freedom against the cruel invasion of Russia, we use these words to address all nations of Europe and the democratic world,” he added. “Ukraine must get everything necessary to achieve victory,” he said.

On Wednesday evening, Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his “gratitude” to the United States for the new tranche of military aid that his American counterpart Joe Biden announced to him in the evening on the telephone. “The United States has announced a new reinforcement of our defense, a new aid tranche of one billion dollars,” Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed in his daily video message on Wednesday evening. “I want to express my gratitude for this support, it is particularly important for our defense in Donbass”, the eastern region of Ukraine epicenter of the current Russian attacks. US aid includes additional artillery and shells. On Wednesday, Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin called on his allies on Wednesday to “step up” arms deliveries to the Ukrainians.

“Tipping point”

“Ukraine is facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield,” the US Secretary of Defense said during a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels of the countries of the “contact group” created by the United States to help Ukraine. “We must therefore intensify our joint commitment” and “redouble our efforts so that she can defend herself”, he added. Volodymyr Zelensky said he also spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who tweeted his support for Ukraine “until the final victory”. And it goes through the Donbass, in eastern Ukraine, which for days has been the subject of a fierce battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Since their abortive offensive on kyiv in March, Russian and pro-Russian separatist forces, which have partially controlled this industrial region since 2014, have set themselves the goal of taking full control. “The enemy has concentrated its main strike forces in the north of the [Luhansk] region and is trying to attack from nine directions simultaneously,” the chief command of the Ukrainian armed forces said Wednesday evening.

Key cities

The fighting has been concentrated for several days in Lyssychantsk and Sievierodonetsk, two key cities in Donbass. Ukrainian authorities have admitted in recent days that their troops have been driven out of downtown Sievierodonetsk, and only have “complicated lines of communication” with them after the destruction of all bridges to Lysychansk. “Sievierodonetsk is a strategic element in our defense system of the Luhansk region. The city cannot be considered otherwise,” the Ukrainian command-in-chief recalled on Wednesday evening.

The Ukrainian forces are notably entrenched in the Azot chemical plant, emblematic of this city with some 100,000 inhabitants before the war, with more than 500 civilians inside, according to the mayor of Sievierodonetsk Oleksandre Striouk. Moscow on Tuesday proposed a “humanitarian corridor” that would evacuate these civilians to Russian-held territory, but Kyiv has not confirmed this. Russia on Wednesday accused kyiv forces of having prevented the operation.

On the diplomatic front, as the United States and Europe rally around Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping has Wednesday reaffirmed his closeness to his “old friend” Vladimir Putin, at the risk of straining relations between Beijing and the West. The UN is concerned for its part about the consequences of the food crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. If the world fails to stem this crisis, the record 100 million uprooted people will swell by “a lot of people”, warned the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Italian Filippo Grandi.

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