Macron hints of Ukraine visit to carry 'message of support'

·3 min read

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron suggested Wednesday that he would soon go to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy but said he would not publicly discuss details about such a trip.

Answering a journalist’s question during an official visit to Romania, Macron said the timing was right for a visit to Ukraine's capital but that he would not “enter into logistics.” Ukraine has been at war since Russia invaded the neighboring country more than 3 1/2 months ago.

“We are in a moment where we need to send clear political signals - us, Europeans, us, the European Union - toward Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” Macron said after meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at an air base in southeastern Romania.

The two presidents met in preparation for a June 23-24 European Union leaders' summit in Brussels and a June 29-30 NATO summit in Madrid. France currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Macron said a “message of support” must be sent to Ukraine before EU heads of state and government “have to make important decisions” at their Brussels meeting. The leaders are scheduled to consider Ukraine’s request for EU candidate status.

The French president also mentioned the need to find ways to allow Ukrainian grain exports. “All these reasons ... justify deep discussions and new steps,” he said.

News outlets have widely reported rumors of Macron preparing to travel to Kyiv with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Premier Mario Draghi.

The German government has refused to confirm or deny the media reports, while Draghi’s office would not comment publicly on an imminent visit.

Macron also met with NATO troops stationed at the Romanian air force's Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base on Wednesday, a day after he said they could serve as a “powerful deterrent” on the alliance’s eastern flank.

France has around 500 troops based in Romania and leads a multinational NATO battlegroup implemented after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Iohannis, Romania's president, noted the strengthening of NATO’s presence in his country and said he and Macron discussed the upcoming summit, "which will take essential decisions for the future of the alliance and for our common security.”

Macron is deeply involved in diplomatic efforts to push for a cease-fire in Ukraine that would allow future peace negotiations.

He has frequent discussions with Zelenskyy and has spoken on the phone several times with Russian President Vladimir Putin since he launched the invasion in late February.

Macron underlined the EU’s military, economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine. “But we want to build peace," he said. “Which means that at some point, we all want a cease-fire and discussions to start again.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the French president is set to fly to Moldova, which shares a land border with Ukraine, for official talks with the country’s pro-Western president, Maia Sandu.

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Corbet reported from Paris. Frank Jordans in Berlin, and Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed.

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

Stephen Mcgrath And Sylvie Corbet, The Associated Press

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