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The visit of the three prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia to Kiev, which took place on Tuesday evening, is remarkable not only because it is the first state visit to Ukraine since the invasion, but also for how it was carried out: the three leaders publicly announced the meeting shortly before departure, and traveled for seven hours by train to arrive in Kiev overnight, just as a 35-hour curfew began in the city.
During the meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other members of the government, no particular news came out: the three European leaders mostly expressed their support and admiration for the Ukrainian resistance. But the trip still had enormous symbolic value. Zelensky, after the meeting, urged other leaders to enter Ukraine: “I invite all friends of Ukraine to visit Kiev,” he said, although he later added: “It can be dangerous here, because our sky is not still closed to Russian aircraft and missiles ».
The European delegation was made up of four personalities: the Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, and together with them also the Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, who is the head of the party of Polish government and is the country’s most influential political figure.
The trip was first announced by Petr Fiala, shortly after 8 am on Tuesday, and with very few details: Fiala (and later also Morawiecki and Janša) wrote on Twitter and Facebook that he would leave today with his colleagues, but without giving precise indications on how the trip would be carried out and at what time.
Today, we are going together with PM of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki, deputy PM Jarosław Kaczyński and PM of Slovenia Janez Janša to Kiev as representatives of the European Council to meet with president Zelensky and PM Shmyhal.https://t.co/Q52Ur8hybu
– Petr Fiala (@P_Fiala) March 15, 2022
During the day rather scarce information arrived: the delegation had left Poland by train at around 9 (therefore a few minutes after the announcement of the trip) and had crossed the border between Poland and Ukraine before noon.
The delegation, various newspapers explained, had chosen to travel by train for safety reasons: commercial planes cannot enter Ukrainian airspace, and traveling on a Polish military plane could have been seen by the Russian air force, present in Ukraine. , like a provocation. Even a road convoy would have been risky.
The railway line that connects Kiev to the Polish border, and which has been used in recent weeks by millions of Ukrainians trying to flee the country, is for now relatively safe: not only because it runs through a long stretch of western Ukraine which for now is it was hit only sporadically by the bombings, but also because so far the line has not been attacked by Russian forces, and there have been no major accidents in its movements.
This does not, of course, mean that the trip was risk-free. Kiev and its peripheral areas are subject to constant bombardment by Russian forces, which among other things are trying to completely surround the city and cut off any possibility of entry and exit, as already happened for example in Mariupol. The encirclement maneuver is at a standstill for now, thanks to the resistance of the Ukrainian forces, but its completion is still a possibility.
It is here, in war-torn Kyiv, that history is being made. It is here, that freedom fights against the world of tyranny. It is here that the future of us all hangs in the balance. EU supports UA, which can count on the help of its friends – we brought this message to Kyiv today. pic.twitter.com/Us7k9xTq5f
– Mateusz Morawiecki (@MorawieckiM) March 15, 2022
After a day in which practically nothing was known about them, the leaders arrived in Kiev overnight. Their entourages began to spread some photos of the four in front of a map, and shortly afterwards the meeting with Zelensky began, in front of the cameras.
The meeting had above all a symbolic value. Among other things, Morawiecki said he will ask to grant Ukraine the status of candidate country for entry into the European Union “very quickly”. “We are here to admire your fight against a cruel invader. This invasion must stop, ”he added. Petr Fiala said: «The main objective of our visit and the main message of our mission is to tell our Ukrainian friends that they are not alone, that Europe is with you». Zelensky thanked the delegation and asked for greater guarantees for Ukraine’s security.
The only notable element of the discussion came from Kaczyński, who at one point said that NATO should send an “armed” peacekeeping force to Ukraine. However, his statements are unlikely to be taken seriously.
While the conversation between Zelensky and the European leaders was ongoing, he wrote BBC, in Kiev the fighting continued, and in the city it was possible to hear the sound of loud explosions caused by artillery. At least one of the members of the European delegation, sitting next to Kaczyński, was wearing a bulletproof vest, as can be seen from the photos released by the Ukrainian presidency.
It is not clear for now when the European delegation will leave Ukraine.
The trip sparked surprise and admiration, although European Union leaders expressed some reservations on Tuesday. Delegation members, announcing the trip on Tuesday morning, said they were going to Kiev “on behalf of the European Council”, but several European officials told the media that Tuesday was not an official Union trip. Indeed, some fear that the trip of the three leaders of Eastern Europe is more a way to distinguish themselves from the rest of the Union, rather than to show unity.
Spokesmen for the presidents of the European Commission and Council told the newspapers that they had nevertheless been informed of the trip last week, during the meeting that had taken place in Versailles.
In addition, the trip was accompanied by some controversies, especially in Poland, whose populist government has had an often conflicting relationship with the European Union in recent years: the pro-government newspapers since yesterday have opposed the courage of Eastern European leaders, who are went to Kiev despite considerable risks, due to the fact that Western European leaders such as Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Mario Draghi remained in their countries.
On Monday, among other things, the Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio he had explicitly advised against to travel to Kiev to a delegation of about 30 parliamentarians and journalists who were planning a visit: in a letter, he wrote that “the Farnesina advises against travel in any capacity” and that a visit by political figures could “be easily exploited for war purposes or disinformation “.