“The EU is on your side,” von der Leyen told Zelensky in Kyiv


April 09, 2022, 10:30 a.m.

Last modification: April 09, 2022, 10:33 a.m.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (L) talks to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a press conference after their meeting. Photo: collected.


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (L) talks to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a press conference after their meeting. Photo: collected.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen vowed revenge during her visit to Bucha on Friday, as the world recoils from recent reports that Russian troops committed atrocities there as they retreated .

Von der Leyen also promised to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and said she would work towards Ukraine’s EU membership.

The German politician was the first Western leader to visit a kyiv suburb, where she saw 20 bodies exhumed from a mass grave and lit candles in a church for the victims.

“Now the whole world can see the true face of Russia,” said a man in uniform as he showed von der Leyen around the site where the bodies lay in black bags. “We’ve known that for years. But now the whole world can witness what we’ve been through here.”

Von der Leyen was initially speechless, despite his familiarity with war zones from his previous post as Germany’s defense minister. She then said that while it wouldn’t heal the wounds, “the whole world is in mourning after everything that’s happened here.”

“We saw the cruel face of Putin’s army, we saw the cruelty and coldness with which they occupied the city,” she said.

“It was important to start my visit to Bucha. Because in Bucha our humanity was shattered,” von der Leyen tweeted afterwards. “My message to the people of Ukraine: those responsible for the atrocities will be brought to justice. Your fight is our fight.”

Ukraine accuses Russian troops of killing hundreds of residents. Moscow denies any involvement and claims the footage that emerged over the weekend is staged, but has offered no evidence for the claim.

She then met Zelensky in the Ukrainian capital. “I am here with you today in Kyiv to send a clear signal that the European Union is on your side,” she said.

Afterwards, Zelensky reiterated his call for tough new sanctions against Moscow, saying that “otherwise Russia doesn’t want to understand anything and anyone.”

He expressed gratitude for the latest EU sanctions, but noted that Moscow had taken a lot from Ukraine. “We can recover the land but not the people,” he said.

The bloc’s fifth round of sanctions against Russia came into effect later that evening, providing for an embargo on coal, timber and vodka and a complete ban on transactions on four key Russian banks, among other measures.

Von der Leyen was joined by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on her trip, which aimed to send “a strong message of support to Ukrainians”, she said.

She wanted to give hope to Ukrainians, she said on their train journey to Kyiv.

In terms of formal support for Ukraine’s EU membership, von der Leyen said beforehand that “it usually takes years before the EU Council accepts an application for membership, but Ukraine did it in a week or two and I ask to move forward as soon as possible”. as possible.”

“Our goal is to present Ukraine’s candidacy for the council this summer.”

Borrell announced during the train journey from Poland that the EU diplomatic representation in the Ukrainian capital would reopen on Friday.

Borrell welcomed the trip as a sign of normalcy. “It shows that this country is still controlled by Ukrainians,” he said, adding that it was possible to travel to Kyiv where a government is able to welcome people from abroad.

The Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine, Matti Maasikos, accompanied the senior EU officials.

Maasikos is expected to return to his post in the Ukrainian capital with a small squad. The EU representation was evacuated from Kyiv a day after the start of the war.

Borrell also announced that the EU would provide 7.5 million euros ($8.15 million) for Ukraine’s investigation into possible war crimes in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and other areas. other places.

Borrell said he was confident that EU states would soon accept his offer to provide Ukraine with an additional 500 million euros to support the armed forces in their fight against the Russian military.

This would bring the funds available to 1.5 billion euros.

The officials’ visit is the first since Bucha’s atrocities were exposed in recent days.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer embarked on his own trip to Kiev on Friday evening. He is expected to meet Zelensky on Saturday and also travel to Bucha.

In mid-March, the Polish, Slovenian and Czech Prime Ministers traveled to kyiv by train. Last week, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, visited the city.

Western leaders are due to meet in late May to discuss the invasion and related defense and energy security issues.

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