On Thursday, June 16, the most controversial leaders of Ukraine's allies — French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi — visited Kyiv. Moreover, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis joined the trio's visit.
All four of them visited Irpin and examined the sites of destruction, as well as held talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. How has the rhetoric of European leaders changed since the outbreak of full-scale war?
Air raid and visit to Irpin
The visit of Scholz, Macron, Draghi, and Iohannis began with the sound of the alarm because of the air raid warnings almost throughout Ukraine.
As other European guests of Kyiv had already done, the politicians examined the partially destroyed Irpin that had previously been occupied by the Russians.
""It's a heroic city, marked by the stigmata of barbarism," Macron commented, quoted by the BBC as seen in the satellite city.
Commenting on the visit, Scholz, for his part, said that together with his colleagues he wanted to show not only solidarity, but also to assure that assistance to Kyiv would continue.
"We want to make it clear that we will continue with the help – financial and humanitarian, and also when it comes to weapons," he stressed.
Scholz called the situation in Ukraine "very unusual" and assured that support would continue for as long as Ukraine needed to fight for independence.
He stressed that the economic sanctions against the Kremlin should not be underestimated:
"They contribute to the chance that Russia will give up its operation and withdraw its troops again. Because that's the goal."
Macron added that such a visit is a "message of unity", since the coming weeks would be very important, The Independent reports.
A talk with Zelensky: More weapons and sanctions
After examining the destruction in Irpin, European politicians returned to the capital for talks with the country's leadership to discuss food security in the world, weapon supplies to Kyiv, and support for Ukraine.
During a conversation with Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Office of the President, Scholz, Macron, Draghi, and Iohannis assured Kyiv of the strong support of the international coalition.
Earlier, we reported about the outcomes of the NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels; they agreed on further military assistance to Ukraine.
Ранее мы уже писали об итогах встречи министров обороны НАТО в Брюсселе, согласовавших дальнейшую военную помощь Украине.
For its part, Ukraine transmitted its proposals for new sanctions against the Kremlin to the EU in order to increase pressure on the terrorist country.
Zelenskyy stated at a joint briefing after the meeting that the main weapon against Moscow was the unity of the entire civilized world.
According to the Ukrainian leader, the bloodthirsty dictator Vladimir Putin is not in the mood for negotiations and wants only war. According to the Ukrainian President, Ukraine is now suffering painful losses in the east during the battle for Donbas and the South.
If defense assistance is not substantially increased, the war risks a bloody stalemate, Ze pointed out.
He stressed that Kyiv appreciates the support provided by partners, but expects new supplies, primarily those of the heavy weapons, modern rocket artillery, and missile defense systems.
"Each shipment of such supplies means saved Ukrainians. Every day of delay or delayed decisions is an opportunity for the Russian military to kill Ukrainians and destroy our cities. There is a direct correlation: the more powerful weapons we get, the faster we can liberate our people, our land."
Paris promised to send six newest artillery systems to Ukraine. For its part, Germany assured that Kyiv would get 15 promised Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns in July, and Panzerhaubitze 2000 howitzers would also be sent soon.
Tipping point in history and Draghi's complaints
The Washington Post, meanwhile, quotes Draghi as saying that the world is at a tipping point in history, and the visit is an unequivocal confirmation of Kyiv's support:
"Every day, the Ukrainian people are defending the values of democracy and liberty that are the pillars of the European project, of our project"
He reaffirmed Italy's support for Ukraine to become a member of the EU, and also added that any ceasefire should take place only on terms that Ukraine deems acceptable.
While Draghi denounced the Russian invasion from the start, Italy has been loyal to the Kremlin for years. Furthermore, we reported about the unacceptable questions of the Italian host during an interview with Zelenskyy.
Also back in February, right after the start of a full-scale invasion, the Italian Prime Minister complained that he could not hold a conversation with the Ukrainian President at the agreed time. Zelenskyy replied that people were dying in Ukraine, and he was busy confronting a terrorist country.
In addition, it was Draghi who said that no one in Europe, except Italy, supports granting Ukraine the status of a candidate member of the EU, which ultimately turned out to be untrue.
Macron no longer saves Putin's face
It should be understood that the rhetoric of Western leaders has changed somewhat. If earlier Macron had reflected on the possibility of a compromise with Russia and even had offered Zelenskyy to surrender a part of sovereignty in order to "save Putin’s face", on Thursday he assured that the EU would not put pressure on Kyiv demanding territorial concessions.
Moreover, according to Macron, France, Germany, Italy, and Romania support granting Ukraine the status of an EU candidate.
At the same time, according to the WP, France and Germany have reduced their expectations for the rapid process of Ukraine's accession to the EU.
Earlier, Macron had already proposed to create a separate European political community that would become part of Ukraine's path to Europe.
Such proposals, along with negotiations with Putin, which Zelenskyy called "diplomatic pas", faced criticism not only in Kyiv, but also within the EU.
"No one negotiated with Hitler," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said earlier. "Mr. Macron, how many times have you negotiated with Putin, what have you achieved?"
Already before his visit to Kyiv, the French leader assured that he believed in the victory of Ukraine, but after that the country would have to negotiate with the Kremlin.
Scholz who asked not to humiliate Russians
Scholz was similarly criticized and, like his French counterpart, used softer language in his condemnation of Russia.
Now he has stepped up his support, stresing that Europe aims to force the Russian Federation to back down.
Earlier, he was criticized for his call "not to humiliate the Russians", who were not to blame for the war unleashed by Putin (at the same time, the majority of the population supports it).
In addition, Scholz assured that Germany was providing serious armed assistance to Ukraine, but the media debunked this statement. In particular, according to German media, Berlin is delaying the supply of weapons to Kyiv because of the fears that Ukrainian troops will shoot at targets in the territory of the Russian Federation.
Conclusions for Ukraine
The visit, together with the Ramstein-3 meeting, where the NATO countries drafted a plan for armed assistance to Kyiv, really showed a change in the mood of the European community. In general, it stressed that Western Europe is trying to save its face, and not Putin’s face, amid the Russian threat not only to Ukraine, but to the entire civilized world.
At the same time, it should be understood that we cannot get weapons as quickly as we want, and the status of an EU candidate does not guarantee us fast membership. Nevertheless, Western support demonstrates to the Kremlin that it is Moscow that is heading into a dead end and a bloody stalemate, and even Ukraine's not-so-clear allies will put as much effort into this as they can.