French, German, Italian leaders in 1st Kyiv trip since invasion

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have arrived in Kyiv in a joint show of support for Ukraine as it faces down Russia’s invasion.

“It’s an important moment. It’s a message of unity we’re sending to the Ukrainians,” Macron said after a special overnight train provided by Ukrainian authorities carried the trio into a station in the capital, Kyiv, early on Thursday morning.

They were set to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later in the day. The European leaders’ visit has taken weeks to organize, while all three have faced criticism from Kyiv over support viewed as tepid.

It comes as Ukraine continues to plead with its Western allies for them to supply it with additional heavy weaponry as it seeks to fend off Russian advances in the country’s south and east, nearly four months into the war.

Moscow is now steadily gaining ground on the outmanned and outgunned Ukrainian forces but Major-General Dmytro Marchenko, who leads Ukraine’s forces in the southern city of Mykolaiv, said his troops could achieve victory over Russia if they were given the right weapons.

Kyiv has criticized France, Germany and, to a lesser extent, Italy, for alleged foot-dragging in their support against Russia, accusing them of being slow to deliver weapons and of putting their own prosperity ahead of Ukraine’s freedom and security.

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Kyiv, said there is expected to be a “lot on the table” during the trio’s discussions with Ukraine’s leader.

“Obviously the war is going to feature heavily in these discussions, there will be a discussion about potentially more weaponry being supplied and Ukraine’s EU candidacy status,” Stratford said.

“And the focus of these discussions comes at a time when both Germany and France have come under criticism from Ukraine and some of the Eastern European NATO countries for basically not doing enough [to support Kyiv] since the war started,” he added.

“But it remains to be seen exactly what can be offered and it is important to also understand that both Germany and France are major donors to what the Europeans have already given [to Ukraine] in terms of weaponry … but Ukrainian officials are every day calling for more heavy weaponry to push back Russia’s onslaught.”

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