EU leaders vow to back Ukraine in visit to war-torn Kyiv

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A house burns after being shelled during an artillery duel between Ukrainian and Russian troops in the city of Lysychansk

The leaders of major EU powers France, Germany and Italy vowed Thursday to help Ukraine defeat Russia and to rebuild its shattered cities, in a visit to a war-torn Kyiv suburb.

French President Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian premier Mario Draghi arrived in Ukraine by train and headed to Irpin, scene of fierce battles early in Russia’s invasion.

Surrounded by the wreckage left by Ukraine’s successful but hard-fought defence of its capital in the early stages of the 113-day-old conflict, Draghi said: “We will rebuild everything.

It is the first time the three have visited Kyiv since Russia’s February 24 invasion. 

Kyiv is also pleading with its western allies to step up supplies of weapons to its forces, which are outgunned by Russian artillery on the frontline in east of the country. 

Germany, especially, has been criticised for slow weapons deliveries, but western defence ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss what more they can do and on Wednesday US President Joe Biden announced $1 billion worth of new arms for Ukrainian forces.

“Supporting Ukraine by further pumping Ukraine with weapons,” warned Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov would be “absolutely useless and will cause further damage to the country”. 

Fighting in eastern Ukraine is focused on the industrial city of Severodonetsk, and Russians forces appear close to consolidating control after weeks of intense battles.

Kyiv’s army is “holding back the enemy as much as possible,” he said on Telegram. “For almost four months they have dreamt of controlling Severodonetsk… and they do not count the victims.”

Moscow’s forces have destroyed the three bridges spanning a river between the city and Lysychansk. 

Russia said Ukrainian authorities had on Wednesday prevented an attempt at evacuating them.

The head of the Severodonetsk city administration Oleksandr Stryuk told Ukrainian television on Thursday that there were about 500 civilians trapped in shelters at the plant. 

The Ukrainian military was using the high ground to exchange fire with Russian forces across the river.

Elsewhere, Russia launched a missile strike in Ukraine’s north-east Sumy region, killing four people and injuring six others, governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky said on Telegram.

“Ukraine is really in a very critical situation and therefore, it’s an urgent need to step up,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told journalists ahead of two days of talks. 

China has refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and has been accused of providing diplomatic cover for Russia by criticising Western sanctions and arms sales to Kyiv.

Addressing the food insecurity crisis is “of paramount importance… to prevent a larger number of people moving,” the United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi told reporters.

Originally published as EU leaders vow to back Ukraine in visit to war-torn Kyiv


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