European leaders visit Kyiv by train as war rages on

Mar 15, 2022: According to a report by Reuters, Three European prime ministers headed to Kyiv by train on Tuesday for the first visit of its kind since war began, even as buildings there were ablaze and rescue workers were trying to pull survivors from the rubble of fresh Russian bombardment.

The fact that foreign leaders could try to visit the Ukrainian capital was a clear indication of Ukraine’s success so far in preventing the invasion, which Western nations believe was aimed at capturing Kyiv weeks ago.

The Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, crossed the border with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Janez Jansa of Slovenia.

“It is our duty to be where history is forged. Because it’s not about us, but about the future of our children who deserve to live in a world free from tyranny,” Morawiecki said.

The visit comes at a time when Ukrainian officials are expressing hope that the war could end sooner than expected, citing Moscow’s failure to impose a new government on Kyiv by force. One of Zelenskiy’s top aides said the war would be over by May, or even end within weeks, as Russia had run out of fresh troops.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday Kyiv was prepared to accept security guarantees that stop short of its long-term objective of the NATO alliance membership, which Moscow opposes.

Ukraine understands it does not have an open door to join NATO yet, Zelenskyy said in a video message: “If we cannot enter through open doors, then we must cooperate with the associations with which we can, which will help us, protect us … and have separate guarantees.”

On the other hand, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to predict progress: “The work is difficult, and in the current situation the very fact that (the talks) are continuing is probably positive.”

With Europe’s biggest invasion force since World War Two and Russia having failed to capture any of Ukraine’s 10 biggest cities, the European leaders will arrive in a city still under bombardment, where around half of the 3.4 million populations have fled and residents spend nights sheltering in underground stations.

Czech and Polish officials said the prime ministers’ mission was coordinated with the EU and agreed by the bloc’s leaders at a summit last week. While welcoming the idea of the peace intiative, the trip “poses serious security risks,” noted one EU official. “Some leaders might also wonder: will this jeopardise or will this improve conditions for negotiations with the Russians. It remains to be seen, of course. It’s a fine line.”

The United Nations says nearly 3 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the war.

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