The President of the European Parliament announced on Friday she is in Kyiv to show solidarity with the embattled country. Roberta Metsola MEP, from Malta, is the first high-level EU official to visit Ukraine since the war broke on 24 February.
"I am in Kyiv to give a message to hope. We are with you," Metsola wrote on Twitter after her arrival in the capital of Ukraine.
Ukrainians' resistance and courage have inspired the world.I am in Kyiv 🇺🇦 to give a message of hope. We are with you. Thank you @r_stefanchuk for the invite. pic.twitter.com/vmpvrp2wg8 — Roberta Metsola (@EP_President) April 1, 2022
Metsola, speaking alongside the Leader of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Ruslan Stefanchuk, added in a joint press conference: "Soon we will help you rebuild your cities and towns. We will continue to take care of your families who have been forced to flee, until they can safely return."
Although she is the first EU official to visit, the Prime Ministers of Poland, Czechia and Slovenia travelled together to Kyiv in mid-March as part of a joint delegation in a show of support for the neighbouring country, meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
European Parliament President, Roberta Metsola, is acting on the pledge stated by the three eastern European leaders of showing "unequivocal support of the entire European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine".
Russia accuses Ukraine of attacking Russian soil
On Friday, Russia accused Ukraine of sending helicopters across the border to attack an oil storage facility in the Russian city of Belgorod on Friday, the first of its kind since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the strike could endanger Moscow's peace talks with Kyiv.
"Of course this cannot be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for continuing the talks," Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
The Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, said he could neither confirm nor deny reports of Ukrainian involvement, as he did not have military information, according to Reuters.
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Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine resumed on Friday.
Moscow insists that Kyiv must recognise Crimea as being part of Russia. In addition, it also demands for the recognition of the occupied Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine as separate, independent states.
Ukraine has so far rejected this claim, particularly since the war in the Donbas has been central to the conflict with Russia. In the 2014/15 Donbas war, Russia was accused by Ukraine of funding and providing military assistance to the pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region.
Another thorny issue for Russia is NATO. Russia previously wanted clear assurances that Ukraine would not join NATO. In March, President Volodomyr Zelenskyy announced Ukraine was no longer seeking membership of the military alliance, citing a clear reluctance of NATO to welcome them in their ranks.
Russian forces regroup
Despite positive signs at the beginning of the week that Russia would pull back troops as a sign of goodwill for the negotiations, there has been little evidence of it happening.
US President Joe Biden also stated he was 'sceptical' of Russia's true intentions.
Many are arguing Russia is not pulling back, but is regrouping for a new assault on Ukraine after seemingly failing to achieve its aims in the first month of war.