- Macron and the leaders of Germany, Italy, and Romania visited Kyiv on Thursday.
- The visit came after Macron faced criticism in Ukraine for saying Putin should not be humiliated.
- The European leaders expressed support for Ukraine’s EU ambitions during the visit.
French President Emmanuel Macron visited Kyiv with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Thursday, traveling to Ukraine at a critical juncture in the war with Russia. It marked one of the most high-profile visits of EU leaders to the Ukrainian capital since Russia launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in late February.
“We’re here, focused, and we’re about to meet President Zelenskyy now to visit a war site where massacres have been committed, and then to lead the conversations that are scheduled with President Zelenskyy,” Macron said in comments to reporters in Kyiv, per Politico.
The EU leaders posed for photos with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, appearing stiff in their suits alongside him in his now-iconic olive green t-shirt and sneakers.
—Anelise Borges (@AnneliseBorges) June 16, 2022
—Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) June 16, 2022
The visit came as Ukraine lives to join the EU, and as Ukraine implores the West for more military aid amid fierce fighting in the eastern Donbas region. Air raid sirens went off not long after their arrival, per multiple reports.
The trip also occurred as questions are being raised about Western unity and resolve. Macron in recent months has repeatedly been the target of fierce criticism for saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin should not be humiliated in Ukraine, which Kyiv has interpreted as a call for it to make concessions to Moscow. Macron tried to stop Russia from invading in the weeks before the French presidential election, and has continued direct calls with Putin.
In reference to the Ukraine war during a May 9 speech, Macron warned Europe to “never give in to the temptation of humiliation.”
Subsequently, Zelenskyy said, “We won’t help Putin save face by paying with our territory. That would be unjust.”
And in an interview with French media earlier this month, Macron said, “We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means.”
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s top diplomat, excoriated the French president over these remarks, tweeting that “calls to avoid humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France and every other country that would call for it.” Kuleba was present on Thursday as Zelenskyy met with the EU leaders.
—KyivPost (@KyivPost) June 16, 2022
Macron’s visit occurred under fairly awkward circumstances, with ties between France and Ukraine on somewhat shaky ground. Germany has also faced criticism in recent weeks over the speed of weapons deliveries to Ukraine. Smoothing out these ruffles was likely one of the many aims of the symbolic and historic trip.
The European leaders expressed strong support for Ukraine to join the EU during their visit.
“All four of us support the status of immediate candidate for membership,” Macron told reporters, according to Politico. Meanwhile, Scholz said, “Germany is in favor of a positive decision in favor of Ukraine,” adding, “Ukraine belongs to the European family.”
The European Commission is expected to make a recommendation on whether Ukraine be granted EU candidate status in the coming days, which would be just one step in a lengthy process to join the bloc.