AP

Kyiv Diary: European leaders bear witness to war’s horror

Jun 15, 2022, 4:11 PM | Updated: Jun 16, 2022, 4:47 am

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, second left, shake hands with French President Emmanuel Ma...

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, second left, shake hands with French President Emmanuel Macron, as they are flanked by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, left, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, at the Mariyinsky Palace in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, June 16, 2022. Four European leaders, of France, Italy, Germany and Romania, made a high-profile visit to Ukraine, where they were saw the ruins of a Kyiv suburb on Thursday and denounced the brutality of a Russian invasion that has killed many civilians. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

(AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Before the ceremony and the serious meetings about war, the European leaders witnessed the devastation wrought by Russia. A must. To understand Ukraine’s fight for survival, they had to see it themselves, with their own eyes.

The blown up buildings. The smashed cars. And a message of hope spray-painted on a damaged building despite mounting Ukrainian deaths.

French President Emmanuel Macron spotted it immediately amid the ruins Thursday.

“Look at that, ‘Make Europe, not war,'” Macron said, pointing and reading the words out loud in English. “It’s very moving to see that.”

The leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania had a walking tour of Irpin, a small city which bore the full brunt of Russia’s failed assault on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in the first weeks of the war. The tour preceded a meeting in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who met them wearing army green pants, a matching T-shirt and sneakers.

If the four hadn’t fully grasped the scale of the horrors inflicted by the Russian invasion, ravages like the ones visited across much of Europe during World War I and World War II, then Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Premier Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis have no excuses now.

The leaders traveled by overnight train to the Ukrainian capital because flights aren’t possible in the wartime airspace where missiles, drones, fighter jets and helicopters have rained down death and destruction. Iohannis, whose country has been a key destination for Ukrainian refugees, traveled separately from the others.

Standing out in their suits and ties amid the heavily armed soldiers guarding them, they heard from a Ukrainian government minister how Russian soldiers fired indiscriminately at families in cars and how the blowing up of bridges had blocked escape routes, locking people in a furnace of death and fighting.

“How many cities do you have in such a situation?” Macron asked.

“Hundreds,” Oleksiy Chernyshov, Ukraine’s minister for communities and territories development, replied.

“They were shooting into the families, children, women” as they tried to flee the fighting, the minister said. “They were just deliberately killing people inside the cars.”

Macron wanted to understand how troops could do such things.

“How do you explain this?” he asked.

Chernyshov explained that some of the killers appeared to have been ordinary young soldiers and others appeared to have been special forces from the Caucasus region, which lies between the Black and Caspian seas. Moscow has deployed fighters from Chechnya, known for their ferocity, to Ukraine.

“We have hundreds of these cases, I am sorry to say. They are still going on,” he said.

The devastated buildings with their innards blown out that the chancellor, the premier and the presidents walked past are just a fraction of the destruction in Ukraine after nearly four months of fighting.

The official said more than 12,000 apartment buildings have been destroyed so far. Add to that electricity substations, heating plants, roads, bridges, schools, churches.

“You name it,” the minister said. “A lot of things to be rebuilt.”

The leaders wanted to know more.

How was the Russian advance going now? Scholz asked.

Macron wanted to know whether additional forces were being massed in Belarus, posing another possible threat to Ukraine.

“We think yes,” Chernyshov said.

Macron was clearly moved. He called Irpin, which Ukrainian forces retook as Russian troops retreated from around Kyiv, “a heroic town.”

“This is where the Ukrainians stopped the Russian army,” he said.

The French leader said Irpin bore “the traces of barbary.”

“Massacres were carried out.” he said. “We have the first traces of what are war crimes.”

So now they know: With their own eyes.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Image: Members of the Makah Indian tribe paddle away from the rising sun as they head from Neah Bay...

Associated Press

Washington’s Makah Tribe clears major hurdle toward resuming traditional whale hunts

The U.S. granted the Makah Indian Tribe a long-sought waiver that helps clear the way for its first sanctioned whale hunts since 1999.

8 hours ago

jerry west...

Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press

Jerry West, a 3-time Hall of Fame selection and the NBA logo, dies at 86

Jerry West, a three-time Basketball Hall of Fame inductee whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning.

2 days ago

Photo: Construction vehicles are parked outside of the Station U & O building on Tuesday, June 11, ...

Haleluya Hadero, The Associated Press

Amazon adds $1.4B to affordable housing fund for regions where it has corporate offices

Amazon is adding $1.4B to a fund for building more affordable housing in regions where the company has major corporate offices.

2 days ago

hunter biden...

Randall Chase and the Associated Press

Hunter Biden convicted of all 3 felony charges in federal gun trial

Hunter Biden has been convicted of all three felony charges related to the purchase of a revolver in 2018, but no sentencing date was set.

2 days ago

Photo: A Bremerton man who made 20 "swatting" calls around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real e...

Associated Press

Bremerton man sentenced for 20 ‘swatting’ calls of false threats in US, Canada

A Bremerton man who made 20 "swatting" calls around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real emergency responses, has been sentenced.

3 days ago

Image: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, left, speaks with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zele...

Associated Press

Ukraine uses US weapons to strike inside Russia, a Western official tells AP

Ukraine has used U.S weapons to strike inside Russia in recent days, according to a Western official familiar with the matter told the AP.

8 days ago

Kyiv Diary: European leaders bear witness to war’s horror