- Zelenskiy thanked EU leaders for visiting the unity
- Leaders surrounded the ruined town of Irpin
- Weapons were needed to stop Russia’s advances in the south and east
- Ukrainian troops, civilians hiding at the Sievierodonetsk plant
- The flow of Russian gas through the large pipeline is falling
KYIV/IRPIN, Ukraine, June 16 (Reuters) – Leaders in Germany, France and Italy, all previously criticized in Kyiv for support seen as overly cautious, visited Ukraine on Thursday and offered hope that become an EU member of a begging country. for weapons to prevent the invasion of Russia.
Air attack sirens exploded in Kyiv as the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz of Germany and Mario Draghi of Italy began, with leaders circling a nearby town devastated by early part of the war. read more
After holding talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the leaders signaled that Ukraine should be given European Union candidate status, a symbolic move that would bring Kyiv closer to the economic bloc.
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Scholz said Germany has captured 800,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict and will continue to support Ukraine if necessary.
“Ukraine belongs to the European family,” he said.
On the battlefield, Ukrainian officials said their troops were still continuing against several Russian bombings of the eastern town of Sievierodonetsk, and described the recent advance of a counter-offensive in the south.
But they said the clashes on the two main fronts depended on receiving more aid from the West, especially artillery to counter Russia’s huge advantage in firepower.
“We are grateful for the support already given by the comrades, we look forward to new deliveries, main heavy weapons, modern rocket artillery, anti-missile defense systems,” Zelenskiy said after speeches to his European counterparts.
“There’s a direct correlation: the more powerful weapons we get, the faster we can liberate our people, our land,” he said.
Macron said France would increase arms deliveries to Kyiv, while NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels were also expected to pledge more weapons.
DEPENDENCY ON RUSSIAN GAS
As European leaders tried to show solidarity for Ukraine, the Russian continent’s reliance for most of its energy supplies was revealed by gas deliveries through a major pipeline that collapsed recently. days.
Moscow blamed Western sanctions for blocking the delivery of equipment sent abroad for repairs but Germany and Italy rejected Russia’s explanation for the shortage raising concerns about supplies for the winter. .
“(We) believe these are lies. In fact they are making a political use of gas just like they are using grain for political use,” Draghi said in Italy. read more
Russia says grain shipments are hampered by sanctions and mining imposed on Ukraine, and denies responsibility for a growing global food crisis.
The visit to Ukraine of the three most powerful EU leaders took weeks to organize as they all refrained from criticizing positions described as more deferential to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Critics have compared Macron and Scholz to Britain’s Boris Johnson, who visited Kyiv more than two months ago.
The leaders, accompanied by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, toured Irpin, a town north-east of the capital that was devastated shortly after the offensive began in February. 24, where the retreat of Russian forces left bodies scattered in the streets.
Noticing the graffiti on a wall that read “Make Europe, not war”, Macron said: “It’s very touching to see that. It’s the right message.”
Scholz, Macron and Draghi all say they are strong supporters of Ukraine who have taken practical steps to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russia’s power and find weapons to help Kyiv.
But Ukraine has long criticized Scholz for what is considered a slow delivery of weapons to Germany and reluctance to cut economic ties with Moscow, and Macron was angry this month for saying one interviews that Russia should not be “embarrassed”.
Italy has also proposed a peace plan that Ukrainians fear could lead to forcing them to leave the territory.
After the talks in Kyiv, Macron said that some kind of communication channel was still needed with Putin.
Ukraine suffered hundreds of casualties a day as the war entered a brutal attritional phase in the east.
After Moscow launched a “special military operation” claiming its purpose was to disarm and “eliminate” its neighbor, Ukraine rejected an armored attack on Kyiv in March.
Since then, however, Russia has shifted its intentions and tactics, now trying to seize much of the eastern lands with advances behind numerous artillery bombings, and consolidating its hold on the captured. southern territory.
The main battle in recent weeks has been in the eastern town of Sievierodonetsk, where Ukrainian forces are hiding in a chemical factory with hundreds of civilians.
“Every day it becomes more and more difficult because the Russians are pulling more and more weapons into the city, and trying to attack it from certain directions,” Sievierodonetsk mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said on Thursday.
An airstrike on Thursday hit a building sheltering Lysychansk civilians across the river, killing at least three and injuring at least seven, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said.
In the south, Ukraine says its forces have begun entering the province of Kherson, which was occupied by Russia early in its invasion. There was little independent reporting to confirm combat positions in the area.
Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, tweeted that he had visited an area just 3-4 km from Russian positions, where dozens of “ghost villages” were depopulated in combat.
“Our men on the ground – the mood is fighting. Even with limited resources, we are pushing back the enemy. One thing is missing – long -range weapons. In any case, we will throw them. from the south, “he wrote.
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Further reporting by Reuters offices; Writing by Peter Graff and Toby Chopra; Edited by Angus MacSwan and Alex Richardson
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