'you are not alone'
The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia traveled to Kyiv by train on Tuesday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders, even as Russia continues to fire missiles into the besieged capital.
The three Central European leaders — Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša — visited Kyiv to "confirm the unequivocal support of the entire European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine," Fiala said in a statement. The prime ministers said they were there on behalf of the European Council, though their countries are also NATO members. Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, though it aspires to join both blocs.
Janša said at a Kyiv news conference alongside his Czech and Polish counterparts that "Ukraine is a European country, every path in Ukraine is European," and "we will do everyone in our power" to ensure "these paths" lead to EU membership. "We are here because your fight is also our fight," he said. "So you're not alone. You're part of the family. Stay brave. You will win, together we will prevail."
Fiala said at the news conference that meeting with Zelensky in person was "something really special" and "the main goal of our visit and the main message of our mission is to say to our Ukrainian friends that they are not alone. That Europe stands with you." Morawiecki made a similar point on Twitter.
Zelensky thanked the Central European leaders for their "wonderful support" when "so many other ambassadors have left Ukraine because of the full-scale Russian invasion." He said "we truly trust these leaders" on security guarantees and future EU membership, and with "friends like this," Ukraine "can win."
John Spencer, a retired U.S. Army officer and chair of urban warfare studies at the Madison Policy Forum, told The Washington Post that the Kyiv trip was "extremely risky," not just for Fiala, Morawiecki, and Janša, but also because Russian President Vladimir Putin "may see leaders of NATO countries entering Ukraine as crossing one of his lines." The fact that foreign leaders can still visit Kyiv by train would seem to underscore that such lines aren't Putin's to draw.