For their first visit to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, the French president, the German chancellor and the head of the Italian government, having just disembarked from a special train in kyiv, headed for the martyred city of Irpin. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who was traveling separately, joined them in the Ukrainian capital.

After about twenty kilometers of road, an image both familiar and chilling awaits them, that of the Irpin bridge, with its collapsed pillars.

In the early days of the war, hundreds of residents had fled the advancing Russian forces by sneaking on makeshift planks into the ruins of this bridge.

– “We will rebuild everything” –

At the entrance to the city, charred, destroyed buildings, the windows dangling in the void in a pile of cables, line up as far as the eye can see.

On this 113th day of war, the four European leaders begin a visit to these haunted places, accompanied by the Ukrainian Minister for Decentralization Oleksiï Tchernychov, who tells them of the desire to rebuild as quickly as possible and the first returns of inhabitants, in a hurry to find their home.

“It is here that the Ukrainians stopped the Russian army which was descending on kyiv”, sums up Emmanuel Macron. “You have the traces, the stigmata of barbarism”, “the first traces of what war crimes are”, he says.

Their guide takes them to the foot of a building, shows them a video of Irpin “before”, then a row of photos describing the horror: interiors of buildings in ruins, an abandoned bather whose gaze seems frozen in the empty…

“We will rebuild everything,” promises Mario Draghi. “War crimes must be judged,” added Macron.

– “Make Europe, not war” –

On the wall of a building, a drawing stands out, symbolizing Europe with, in English and Ukrainian, a slogan: “Make Europe not war” – in other words, “Make Europe, not war”.

The French president stops, almost taken aback by this message which sums up well the purpose of the visit of the four leaders, to secure Ukraine to Europe, without waiting for the end of the conflict with Russia.

“It’s the right message”, launches Emmanuel Macron in English. “It’s very moving to see this,” added the head of state, as the European Union must decide next week whether to grant Ukraine official candidate status for the European Union.

From Friday, the European Commission must give its opinion, a first important signal before the European summit scheduled for June 23 and 24.

The guide of the European quartet then leads them to a car with doors riddled with bullets. “They deliberately targeted the passengers inside, even though there was no man among them,” said Minister Chernychov, referring to hundreds of similar cases.

At the end of the visit, the convoys leave for the center of kyiv, heading for the Marinsky Palace, where Volodymyr Zelensky awaits them.

A handshake, and the leaders disappear for discussions away from the cameras, where the question of joining the European Union was to be central.

The leaders of the three major European economies had wedged their message to the Ukrainian president in the night, in a wooded lounge of the special train which took them to kyiv, in an atmosphere worthy of a rolling diplomatic mini-summit.

Emmanuel Macron, who arrived from neighboring Moldova, had fallen off the jacket and tie, Olaf Scholz was in a black polo shirt and Mario Draghi in a white shirt and small sweater.

Sitting around a table, the three men discussed for almost two hours, until late at night.

Olaf Scholz took advantage of the trip to talk to some German journalists. Under pressure not to deliver enough arms to kyiv, the German chancellor said he was ready to support kyiv, including with arms, “as long as it takes”, according to the daily Bild.