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European leaders meet with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to show unity and support

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Ukraine has criticized some key European countries. It says they haven't done enough to support Ukraine in its war against Russia. So in a show of European unity, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania took a train today to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. There, they met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and visited a site where Russian forces have been accused of widespread abuses. NPR's Greg Myre is in Kyiv and joins us now. Hi, Greg.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi, Sacha.

PFEIFFER: Greg, what was the message these four leaders took with them to Kiev?

MYRE: Well, the simple message is we're with Ukraine. These leaders came in by train, as you noted. And this is because Ukraine's civilian airports have been shut down by the war. And then more or less on cue, air raid sirens went off shortly after they arrived. Now, in the eyes of many Ukrainians, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have all been too accommodating toward Russia. This was their first trip to Ukraine for each of them since the war began. It was clearly an attempt to sort of make up and a strong show of European support and unity. Romania is in a slightly different category. It's taken in a large number of Ukrainian refugees and is seen as a solid supporter.

PFEIFFER: And so far, does it seem like this effort succeeded in patching things up with Ukrainian officials?

MYRE: Yeah, in the short term, yes. The European leaders traveled to Irpin. That's a suburb to the northwest of Kyiv. And that's where Russian forces were blamed for killing many civilians when they nearly reached the capital in the early days of the war. Macron denounced what he called the barbarism of these attacks and said there were signs that the Russians had carried out, quote, "massacres." And afterwards, the leaders, all of them in suits and ties, sat down with Zelenskyy, who was in his trademark olive T-shirt at his heavily fortified presidential compound. Afterward, they had a press conference. Zelenskyy said he trusted the commitments of the European leaders, adding, I am very happy with the discussions we've had today.

PFEIFFER: Greg, I think you said these European leaders succeeded in the short term in patching things up with Ukraine. What about the longer term?

MYRE: Well, that could depend on how many weapons they send to Ukraine. These big European countries have promised a military help, but Ukraine says it's not nearly enough. And it's in sharp contrast to the U.S., which announced Wednesday that it's sending another billion dollars in military hardware. Ukraine says it's outgunned by Russian artillery by a ratio of at least 10 to 1, and will continue to struggle on the battlefield if this gap remains.

PFEIFFER: By the way, Greg, I understand you met today with the new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at its recently reopened U.S. Embassy. How did that meeting go, and how is that embassy functioning?

MYRE: Yeah. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv is a very large operation, but it was shut down shortly before Russia invaded in February. It reopened a month ago. And shortly after that, the new ambassador, Bridget Brink, arrived. And we hear a lot about the U.S. military support, but she noted the embassy is providing money to keep the Ukrainian government running to help with humanitarian needs and to help with war crimes investigations.

PFEIFFER: Brink has only been in that position for a short while. Did you get a sense that she has a sense of what's ahead in this war?

MYRE: She thinks there's a long way to go. Here's what she said.

BRIDGET BRINK: My judgment is that this is going to be a long war. It's going to be a long, grinding, tough war. And the Ukrainians are fighting inch by inch, yard by yard, kilometer by kilometer. It's incredibly intense, difficult fighting with lots of losses.

MYRE: She said sustained U.S. support is critical to show that in the 21st century, borders can't be changed by force.

PFEIFFER: That's NPR's Greg Myre in Kyiv. Greg, thank you.

MYRE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.