Three heads of government from EU countries -Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia- met this Tuesday in the Ukrainian capital with the country’s president, Volodímir Zelenski, who “really” thanked the gesture of support. “Your visit to kyiv in these difficult times for Ukraine is a clear sign of support”, he has indicated through his official Telegram channel, in a message accompanied by a video of the meeting. The European Commission has distanced itself from the initiative.
“This war is the result of a cruel tyrant attacking defenseless civilians and bombing cities and hospitals in Ukraine. We have to stop this tragedy in the East as soon as possible. Therefore […] we are in kyiv,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a Facebook post located in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday afternoon. Arriving in kyiv, Janez Jansa, the Slovenian Prime Minister, also made an announcement on Facebook stating that “European values are under threat” and “there is no country on the entire continent more European than Ukraine”.
Morawiecki, his deputy prime minister and leader of the ultra-conservative Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski; Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Jansa arrived in kyiv by train across the Polish border. The objective of the meeting in kyiv with the president of Ukraine and his prime minister, Denis Shmyhal, was to convey the “unequivocal support” of the Twenty-seven, Morawiecki’s office had reported in a statement.
It is the first visit to the city by international leaders since the start of the Russian offensive almost three weeks ago. Warsaw launched the initiative despite not having the support of the EU and the fact that the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, warned of the security risks involved in the trip, according to community sources in Brussels.
Morawiecki’s chief of staff, Michal Dworczyk, has pointed out that there are no other community leaders on the trip because “not all were willing to participate”. This is an “individual decision”, he added, according to the Polish agency PAP.
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
The displacement, which also had the objective of “presenting a broad package of support to Ukraine and the Ukrainians”, was organized – says the Polish Prime Minister’s office – “after consulting the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen”. “The international community has been informed of the trip through international organizations, including the UN,” the note concludes.
Official EU sources indicate that, indeed, Michel and Von der Leyen “were informed of the intention to travel to kyiv during the informal European summit that was held in Versailles last Thursday and Friday.” Morawiecki confirmed to them on Monday night that the trip would finally be made with the participation of the prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovenia, according to European sources.
The same sources indicate that Michel warned Morawiecki of “the security risks” posed by the initiative. A Russian attack, accidental or deliberate, against a European delegation could lead to an international escalation in the conflict with unforeseeable consequences for Europe, especially since the three participating countries belong to NATO. The Atlantic Alliance treaty provides that in the event of an attack against one of the allies, all the others must respond.
Brussels, just in case, has distanced itself from the Polish initiative. And community sources have stressed that, contrary to what was suggested by Warsaw, Prague and Ljubljana, the trip to the Ukrainian capital “is done without any mandate from the European Council.” And they remember that at the Versailles summit the EU partners did not adopt any formal conclusion in this regard.
Apart from the political gesture of support that the visit represents in the midst of a war that is now in its twentieth day, the EU prefers to redouble the pressure on Russia with an unprecedented economic blow. Von der Leyen on Tuesday applauded the “rapid approval” of a fourth package of sanctions against Russia, which “will further paralyze Putin’s ability to finance this unjustified war.”
The President of the Commission has stressed that “the EU and its partners will maintain pressure on the Kremlin until it stops the invasion of Ukraine”. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has responded: “Sanctions are not going to stop us, we are going to continue working.”
I welcome the fast adoption by EU Member States of the 4th package of sanctions against Russia.
This will further cripple Putin’s ability to finance this unjustified war.
The EU and its partners will keep up the pressure on the Kremlin until it stops the invasion of Ukraine.
– Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) March 15, 2022
The trip of the community leaders has taken place the same day in which Moscow and kyiv have resumed the negotiations that began on Monday. “A very difficult and viscous negotiating process. There are fundamental contradictions. But there is definitely room for an agreement,” Mikhailo Podoliak, an adviser to President Zelensky, tweeted after the meeting concluded. The dialogue will continue this Wednesday, he added.
On this day, the number of Ukrainian refugees to neighboring countries, especially Poland, has already reached three million, according to the International Organization for Migration, and Russian attacks on residential areas in kyiv have intensified.
The capital is almost completely surrounded by Russian forces. At least four people have died there this Tuesday in attacks on residential areas, the mayor, Vitali Klitschko, has reported. At least three powerful explosions have been recorded. A block of flats in the northwest of kyiv has received heavy artillery fire this morning, according to the emergency services. More than half of its inhabitants before the war have already left the city. The mayor has announced a 35-hour curfew from this Tuesday night due to the “dangerous” moment that the city is going through.
Follow all the international information in Facebook and Twitteror in our weekly newsletter