The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia are travelling to meet Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv even as pre-dawn Russian shelling killed more civilians in an apartment building in Ukraine’s capital.
In statements from their respective capitals, the three leaders said they would be offering their support to Ukraine’s president as representatives of the other 24 EU heads of state and government.
The move by Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki, his Czech counterpart, Petr Fiala, and Slovenia’s Janez Janša was said to be an attempt to bolster Ukraine in its fight for its sovereignty. They will also meet the Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmyhal.
Fiala tweeted: “The aim of the visit is to express the European Union’s unequivocal support for Ukraine and its freedom and independence.
“At the same time, we will present a broad package of support for Ukraine and its citizens during the visit. The international community has also been informed of this visit by international organisations, including the United Nations.”
The announcement came as the emergency services in Kyiv said said two people had died in an attack on a 15-storey apartment building shortly before dawn on Tuesday.
A downtown subway station that had been used as a bomb shelter was also damaged. City authorities tweeted an image of its blown-out facade.
Kyiv has been spared the worst of the fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February but the Russian military has been gradually encircling the capital.
The Polish government said the visit by the three EU leaders to Ukraine and its capital was being made in agreement with the presidents of the European Commission and Council, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.
EU leaders met in Versailles on Thursday and Friday last week to discuss further ways to pile pressure on Vladimir Putin. The leaders would be in Kyiv, the statement said, as “representatives of the European Council”.
“The purpose of the visit is to confirm the unequivocal support of the entire European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and to present a broad package of support for the Ukrainian state and society,” the Polish government’s statement said.
They will meet as talks resume between Russian and Ukrainian representatives, with Zelenskiy suggesting that the previous round had gone “pretty well”.
While earlier negotiations focused on humanitarian issues, the latest talks aim to achieve a ceasefire, securing Russian troop withdrawals and establishing security guarantees for Ukraine. The Russian delegate Leonid Slutsky had suggested draft agreements may not be far off.
The EU member states formally agreed on a fourth sanctions package on Tuesday morning, including an asset freeze and travel ban on the Chelsea football club owner, [object Window].
He is described in the EU’s legal text as “a Russian oligarch who has long and close ties to Vladimir Putin”.
“He has had privileged access to the president, and has maintained very good relations with him,” the text adds. “This connection with the Russian leader helped him to maintain his considerable wealth.
“He is a major shareholder of the steel group Evraz, which is one of Russia’s largest taxpayers.”
The new round of sanctions against Putin’s regime includes an EU import ban on a range of sensitive steel products and a ban on new investment across the Russian energy sector, with limited exceptions for civil nuclear energy and the transport of certain energy products back to the EU.
The EU is also imposing a ban on the export of luxury goods, such as cars and jewellery, with a value of €300 (£250) or more.
A ban on the rating of Russia and Russian companies by EU credit rating agencies and the provision of rating services to Russian clients will also be imposed.
The EU’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, gesê: “As President Putin’s war against Ukrainian people continues, so does our resolve to support Ukraine and cripple the financing of Kremlin’s war machinery.
“This fourth package of sanctions is another major blow to the economic and logistic base upon which Russia relies on to carry out the invasion of Ukraine. The aim of the sanctions is that President Putin stops this inhuman and senseless war.”