The three leaders boarded a special train together, the French presidency confirmed. A photo, released by German and Italian media social networks, shows them seated around a table in a wooded lounge on the train they boarded in Poland.

The trio are due to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinsky, who is calling for EU candidate status for his country as well as an acceleration of Western arms deliveries to resist the Russian push.

“I think we are at a time when we, the European Union, need to send clear political signals to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in a context where they have been resisting heroically for several months” , said the French president, who previously visited a NATO base in Romania.

This trip is a first for the leaders of the three main countries of the European Union, since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The three men are due to meet Mr. Zelensky to discuss, in addition to military support, Ukraine’s request to join the European Union. France, Germany and Italy are in favor of it, but in a more or less distant perspective.

Ukraine expects no less from the European summit of 23-24 June the decision of the Twenty-Seven on its official application for membership, the start of a process of negotiations which may last several years.

Its president should also reiterate his request for new deliveries of heavy weapons, essential, he assures, to counter the Russian firepower.

– “Be with us” –

“We are with you, be with us,” Mr Zelensky told Czech lawmakers in Prague on a teleconference, citing an appeal made by a Czechoslovak radio presenter in 1968 as the Soviet occupiers tried to shut down the radio .

“Today, as the people of Ukraine struggle for their freedom against the cruel invasion of Russia, we use these words to address all nations of Europe and the democratic world,” he added.

“Ukraine must obtain everything necessary to achieve victory,” he insisted.

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Zelensky said his “gratitude” to the United States for the new tranche of military aid that his American counterpart, Joe Biden, announced to him in the evening on the telephone.

“The United States has announced a new reinforcement of our defense, a new tranche of aid of one billion dollars,” confirmed Mr. Zelensky in his daily video message on Wednesday evening.

“I want to express my gratitude for this support, it is particularly important for our defense in Donbass”, the region of eastern Ukraine epicenter of the current Russian attacks.

US aid includes additional artillery and shells.

On Wednesday, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin called on his allies on Wednesday to “step up” arms deliveries to the Ukrainians.

– “Hinge moment” –

“Ukraine is facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield”, declared the American Secretary of Defense, during a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels of the countries of the “contact group” created by the United States to help Ukraine. “We must therefore intensify our common commitment” and “redouble our efforts so that it can defend itself”, he added.

Mr. Zelensky said he also spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who assured on Twitter to support Ukraine “until the final victory”.

The fighting has been concentrated for several days in Lyssychantsk and Severodonetsk, two key cities in the Donbass (east). The Ukrainian authorities have admitted in recent days that their troops have been driven out of downtown Severodonetsk, and only have “complicated communication channels” with them after the destruction of all the bridges to Lysytchansk.

The Ukrainian forces are notably entrenched in the Azot chemical plant, emblematic of this city with some 100,000 inhabitants before the war, with more than 500 civilians inside, according to the mayor of Severodonetsk Oleksandre Striouk.

Moscow proposed on Tuesday a “humanitarian corridor” that would allow the evacuation of these civilians to territories controlled by the Russians, but kyiv did not confirm it.

Russia on Wednesday accused kyiv forces of having prevented the operation.

The UN is concerned for its part about the consequences of the food crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. If the world does not manage to stem this crisis, the record of 100 million uprooted people will increase by “a large number of people”, warned the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Italian Filippo grandi .