European Council President Charles Michel arrived in Kyiv to show support for Ukraine nearly two months into Russia’s invasion, calling it the “heart of a free and democratic Europe.”
“History will not forget the war crimes that have been committed here,” he tweeted as he compared the devastated area to that of Bucha. In that Kyiv suburb, the discovery of mass graves and bound corpses angered the world and sparked calls for a global investigation into war crimes there and in other towns attacked by Russian forces.
Zelensky said earlier this month that the situation in Borodyanka appeared “significantly more dreadful” than in nearby Bucha.
Video footage recorded in Borodyanka as residents returned following the withdrawal of Russian troops earlier this month showed locals sobbing in the street as they surveyed the widespread damage — buildings reduced to rubble, homes with windows blown out and walls missing. Access to gas, electricity and water was cut off during the fighting, residents said, as emergency services recovered bodies from the ruins.
Michel, a former Belgian prime minister, tweeted updates from his travels in both English and Ukrainian. He is one of several high-profile European leaders who have visited Ukraine since Russia’s invasion. They include European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Czech, Polish and Slovenian prime ministers have also made the trip, aimed at showing solidarity on the world stage.
Ukraine has applied for European Union membership — and von der Leyen has promised a speedy response, although even if Ukraine gains candidate status, formally joining is a long process.
According to Michel’s weekly schedule, the purpose of his trip to Kyiv is for “official meetings” — although it was not immediately clear how long the trip would last. It comes as Russia renews its campaign to take eastern Ukraine.
Michel was unanimously reelected for a second term as European Council president last month. He will head the council, the European Union institution that defines the bloc’s general political direction and priorities, until November 2024.
In remarks earlier this month, Michel urged Russian troops to rethink their stance in the conflict.
“I have one message for Russian soldiers: If you want no part in killing your Ukrainian brothers and sisters … drop your arms, leave the battlefield,” he said, before calling for more sanctions on Russia and for more weapons deliveries to Ukraine.
During Johnson’s surprise visit, the prime minister walked through the streets of Kyiv alongside Zelensky. Calling Russia’s invasion “barbaric,” Johnson outlined a new package of military support to help those defending Ukraine and said Britain would continue to provide “unwavering support.”
Today I met my friend President @ZelenskyyUa in Kyiv as a show of our unwavering support for the people of Ukraine.
We’re setting out a new package of financial & military aid which is a testament of our commitment to his country’s struggle against Russia’s barbaric campaign. pic.twitter.com/KNY0Nm6NQ3
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) April 9, 2022