The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia are travelling to Kyiv by train, the first foreign leaders to visit the Ukrainian capital since Russia invaded its neighbour last month.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office confirmed the visit on Tuesday but gave no further details about the gathering, which is due to take place as fighting continues on the outskirts of Kyiv and residential buildings inside the city are being shelled. At least two people were killed in an overnight strike.
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“The aim of the visit is to express the European Union’s unequivocal support for Ukraine and its freedom and independence,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said in a Twitter post.
His Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, said on Facebook the trip was taking place on the 20th day of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “criminal aggression against Ukraine”.
“At such breakthrough times for the world, it is our duty to be where history is forged. Because it’s not about us, but about the future of our children who deserve to live in a world free from tyranny,” he said.
Michal Dwoczyk, a top aide to Morawiecki, told reporters the delegation, including Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, had crossed the Polish-Ukraine border by train after 8am (07:00 GMT).
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from a bombed-out residential building that was hit in the early hours of Tuesday, said the visit was primarily “a very visible public high-level show of support for the Ukrainian people and leadership”.
He added that discussions were likely to focus on getting desperately needed humanitarian aid into Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine.
The Czech Republic and Poland, former communist members of both the European Union and NATO, have been among the strongest backers of Ukraine in Europe since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
The European leaders’ visit comes as Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are planning to hold a second day of talks after hours-long discussions on Monday held via a video link ended without a breakthrough.
An aide to Zelenskyy said the negotiators took “a technical pause” and planned to meet again on Tuesday.
The two sides had expressed some optimism in the past few days. Mykhailo Podolyak, the aide to Zelenskyy, tweeted that the negotiators would discuss “peace, ceasefire, immediate withdrawal of troops & security guarantees”.
Previous discussions, held in person in Belarus, produced no lasting routes to evacuate civilians or agreements to end the fighting.
Zelenskyy is seeking to extend martial law until April 24 and to require men ages 18 to 60 to stay in the country to fight. Zelenskyy submitted the extension in a bill to parliament, which is expected to vote on it this week.
Separately, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced a curfew on the city from 8pm (18:00 GMT) on Tuesday to 5am on Thursday. The move came after several residential areas were struck in the early hours of Tuesday.
Most residents are only allowed to leave their homes to seek safety in shelters and bunkers, Klitschko wrote on Telegram.
“Therefore, I call on all Kyivis to prepare for the fact that they will have to stay at home for two days or in the shelter in case of an alarm,” Klitschko wrote.