June 17 (UPI) — The leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania made a high-profile visit to Ukraine on Thursday and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, aiming to show support for the country after more than three months of war.
Making the trip to Kyiv were French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Sholz , Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian leader Klaus Iohannis.
After arriving, Scholz said that he and the other European leaders wanted to “show support for Ukraine and the citizens of Ukraine.” He added that the trip was intended make sure that financial, humanitarian and weapons support will continue.
In an interview with Germany’s ZDF television, Zelensky said that Ukraine needs Sholz “to assure us that Germany supports Ukraine.”
Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrived in Kyiv early Thursday after traveling overnight by a special train, and Iohannis arrived a few hours later.
After visiting the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, Scholz said that it and nearby Bucha have become symbols of “unimaginable cruelty” in the war.
Macron said that the leaders wanted to send a message of unity to the Ukrainian people — and added, bluntly, that the coming weeks will be very difficult. As Macron met with Zelensky, France called for Russia to return all territory that it occupies in Ukraine.
“No words to describe the unimaginable human tragedy and horrible destructions we saw today in Irpin,” Iohannis said in a tweet. “I strongly appeal for all Russian perpetrators to be held responsible by the international criminal justice, which Romania fully supports.
“This illegal Russian aggression must stop!”
In Belgium Thursday, NATO defense ministers met to explore giving more military aid.
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Zelensky on Wednesday. The White House said he affirmed U.S. support and pledged another $1 billion in security aid. The United States has already given billions in aid and equipment for Ukraine’s defense.
Thursday’s visit was the most high-profile trip yet to the battle-torn nation, which is seeking to join the European Union.
Zelensky aide Andrii Yermak said on Telegram that food security, weapons and other support would be discussed during the meetings Thursday.
“We expect support for Ukraine’s application for EU candidate status,” he added.
Not long after the leaders arrived, air-raid sirens blared throughout the city.
“No doubt it’s a message to European leaders,” Ukrainian lawmaker Inna Sovsun said in a tweet. “I hope they will hear [Russian President Vladimir] Putin loud and clear.”
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said she didn’t expect any “bright announcements” out of the meetings, but acknowledged that the European leaders’ visit is “historical.”
On Wednesday, Germany pledged to donate rocket systems that Zelensky has been asking for. The M270 Mittleres Artillerie Raketen System is expected to give Ukrainian forces the ability to hit targets roughly 40 miles away.