The leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and Romania arrived in Kyiv on Thursday in a show of collective European support for the Ukrainian people, marking the highest-profile visit to Ukraine's capital since Russia invaded its neighbor. The French president's office said that President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian Premier Mario Draghi, representing the three largest economies in Europe, traveled to Kyiv together on a special overnight train provided by the Ukrainian authorities, the AP reports.
President Klaus Iohannis of Romania—which borders Ukraine and has been a destination for many Ukrainian refugees—arrived on a separate train, tweeting on arrival: "This illegal Russian aggression must stop!" After getting off the train in Kyiv, Macron said he and the other leaders would visit sites where attacks occurred. "It’s a message of European unity for the Ukrainian people, support now and in the future, because the weeks to come will be very difficult," Macron said. The visit comes as the Russian forces press their offensive in the eastern Donbas region, slowly but steadily gaining ground on the badly outmanned and outgunned Ukrainian forces, who are pleading for more arms from Western allies.
Several air raid sirens rang out while the European leaders were in their hotel preparing for the rest of their visit, and Kyiv authorities urged people to seek shelter. Such alerts are a frequent occurrence. The European leaders are to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, and hopes are high among Ukrainians that the visit could mark a turning point by opening the way to significant new arms supplies. The visit comes as EU leaders prepare to make a decision June 23-24 on Ukraine's request to become a candidate for EU membership, and ahead of an important NATO summit June 29-30 in Madrid. (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)