European Union President Ursula Von Der Leyen visits Ukraine

European Union President Ursula Von Der Leyen visits Ukraine to see Bucha massacre victims for herself – so now will Europe wean itself off Putin’s gas?

  • EU President Ursula von der Leyen today visited the site of the Bucha massacre, a town northwest of Kyiv
  • It comes as the bloc is now under renewed pressure to wean member states off reliance on Russian oil   
  • The EU has paid Vladimir Putin 35billion euros for oil and gas since invasion of Ukraine began on February 24
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today visited Ukraine to see the victims of the Bucha massacre herself as member states came under renewed pressure to wean the bloc off Putin‘s gas. 

    Von der Leyen travelled to the war-ravaged town after a senior official admitted that nation states had paid Vladimir Putin €35 billion for oil and gas since he ordered Moscow’s troops into Ukraine on February 24.  

    The mass killing of civilians in Bucha, near Kyiv, have been widely condemned by the West as war crimes with piles of bodies showing signs of torture and execution pictured after it had been recaptured by Ukrainian forces.

    But officials have now revealed that even greater damage was done by Putin’s thugs in Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv and about 15 miles from Bucha.

    The are ‘significantly more dreadful’ than the scenes in Bucha, with residents left to die in the rubble of their bombed homes for a week, president Volodymyr Zelensky said last night.

    Von der Leyen was joined in Bucha by the EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell who this week admitted the bloc is paying a billion euros a day for energy provisions.   

    He said that banning oil imports from Russia would be discussed when EU foreign ministers meet on Monday. But today the bloc rowed back, with a diplomat saying an embargo would not be discussed at the conference in Luxembourg.

    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today visited Ukraine to see the victims of the Bucha massacre herself as member states came under renewed pressure to wean the bloc off Putin's gas

    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen today visited Ukraine to see the victims of the Bucha massacre herself as member states came under renewed pressure to wean the bloc off Putin’s gas

    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was joined in Bucha by the EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell who this week admitted the bloc is paying a billion euros a day for energy provisions

    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was joined in Bucha by the EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell who this week admitted the bloc is paying a billion euros a day for energy provisions

    EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell (right) has said that the 27-nation bloc is paying a billion euros a day for energy provisions, accounting for over 35 billion euros since the war started.

    EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell (right) has said that the 27-nation bloc is paying a billion euros a day for energy provisions, accounting for over 35 billion euros since the war started.

    Soldiers stand guard as Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, visits a mass grave in Bucha, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine

    Soldiers stand guard as Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, visits a mass grave in Bucha, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine

    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen lights a candle in near a mass grave in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv on Friday

    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen lights a candle in near a mass grave in Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv on Friday  

    Volunteers move the bodies of civilians at a cemetery in Bucha, where dozens of civilians were found dead this week as Russian forces withdrew over the border to Belarus

    Volunteers move the bodies of civilians at a cemetery in Bucha, where dozens of civilians were found dead this week as Russian forces withdrew over the border to Belarus

    Von der Leyen said today that the deaths of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where forensic investigators started to exhume bodies from a mass grave, showed the ‘cruel face’ of Putin’s army.

    Speaking to reporters in Bucha, von der Leyen, wearing a flak jacket, said the EU would do everything to support Ukraine to do ‘the necessary steps’ to secure membership of the bloc – a demand Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pressed.

    ‘The unthinkable has happened here. We have seen the cruel face of Putin’s army. We have seen the recklessness and the coldheartedness with which they have been occupying the city,’ von der Leyen told reporters in Bucha.

    ‘The whole world is mourning with the people of Bucha, and they are the ones who are… defending the border of Europe, defending humanity, defending democracy and therefore we stand with them in this important fight.’

    She looked visibly moved by what she saw in a town where Ukrainian officials say hundreds of civilians were killed by Russian forces. 

    Russia denies targeting civilians in its more than six-week war against Ukraine and has called the allegations that Moscow’s forces executed civilians in Bucha while they occupied the town a ‘monstrous forgery’ aimed at denigrating the Russian army. 

    The images from Bucha, which was retaken along with other towns north of the capital as Russian forces withdrew to focus efforts on the east of the country, have prompted a renewed effort by Western nations to punish Moscow for the invasion.    

    Members of the 64th Motorised Rifle Brigade of the 35th All-Russian Army, who Ukrainian authorities named as the culprits responsible for the torture and slaughter of hundreds on the outskirts of Kyiv, withdrew from Bucha (pictured) last week and arrived in Mazyr, Belarus, yesterday

    Members of the 64th Motorised Rifle Brigade of the 35th All-Russian Army, who Ukrainian authorities named as the culprits responsible for the torture and slaughter of hundreds on the outskirts of Kyiv, withdrew from Bucha (pictured) last week and arrived in Mazyr, Belarus, yesterday

    Priests pray at body bags in a mass grave in the garden surrounding the St Andrew church in Bucha, which was the scene of bloody war crimes

    Priests pray at body bags in a mass grave in the garden surrounding the St Andrew church in Bucha, which was the scene of bloody war crimes

    Ukrainian servicemen inspect the wreckage of houses, cars and Russian military vehicles in the town of Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, yesterday

    Ukrainian servicemen inspect the wreckage of houses, cars and Russian military vehicles in the town of Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, yesterday

    Bodies of civilians in plastic bags lay in a mass grave in Bucha city, which was the recaptured by the Ukrainian army, Kyiv (Kiev) area, Ukraine, 04 April 2022. More than 410 bodies of killed civilians were carried from the recaptured territory in Kyiv's area for exgumation and expert examination

    Bodies of civilians in plastic bags lay in a mass grave in Bucha city, which was the recaptured by the Ukrainian army, Kyiv (Kiev) area, Ukraine, 04 April 2022. More than 410 bodies of killed civilians were carried from the recaptured territory in Kyiv’s area for exgumation and expert examination

    People gather outside the Ukrainian embassy in Yerevan to mourn civilians found dead in the town of Bucha, to the northwest of Kyiv, on April 4, 2022

    People gather outside the Ukrainian embassy in Yerevan to mourn civilians found dead in the town of Bucha, to the northwest of Kyiv, on April 4, 2022

    As the EU leaders were about to arrive in Kyiv, as many as 50 people were killed and many more were wounded in a rocket strike at a railway station packed with civilians fleeing the threat of a major Russian offensive in the country’s east.

    Von der Leyen’s trip to Kyiv was aimed at offering Zelensky moral and some financial support. Travelling by train from Brussels to Kyiv, she told reporters the most important message she was bringing was that there ‘will be the EU path’ for Ukraine.

    She pledged her support for Kyiv to ’emerge from the war as a democratic country’, something, she said, the European Union and other donors would help with.

    Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, echoed the message, talling reporters the visit was a signal that ‘Ukraine is in control of its territory’.

    ‘Ukraine is not a country invaded, dominated. There is still a government (which) receives people from outside and you can travel to Kyiv,’ Borrell said, adding he hoped the EU would offer another 500 million euros ($543 million) to Kyiv in the coming days.

    Zelensky says the war is a direct attack on not only Ukraine’s existence, but the security of Europe as a whole.

    Russia calls its action a ‘special military operation’ to demilitarise and ‘denazify’ its neighbour. Before the invasion, Putin had presented Ukraine’s tilt in recent years to the West – including its aspiration to join NATO – as a threat to Russia’s security.

    Zelensky has urged Brussels to do more to punish Russia, including banning purchases of oil and gas from the country, and has called on the EU to accept Ukraine as a full member.

    Borrell said oil sanctions were ‘a big elephant in the room’, with some concerns that a move to cut out Russian crude could cause a spike in prices that would be painful to European economies. He said a decision on exports would be raised on Monday in Brussels.

    The strike was on Kramatorsk's train station, with graphic pictures on Friday showing bodies strewn across floor outside, lying amongst abandoned luggage

    The strike was on Kramatorsk’s train station, with graphic pictures on Friday showing bodies strewn across floor outside, lying amongst abandoned luggage

    Regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said thousands of people were at the train station at the time of the strike, preparing to evacuate to safer regions as Russia focuses its troops in eastern Ukraine. Pictured: Body bags are seen outside the station

    Regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said thousands of people were at the train station at the time of the strike, preparing to evacuate to safer regions as Russia focuses its troops in eastern Ukraine. Pictured: Body bags are seen outside the station

    Pictured: A scene of devastation outside the train station on Friday after 'Russian' missiles struck, killing more than 30 people

    Pictured: A scene of devastation outside the train station on Friday after ‘Russian’ missiles struck, killing more than 30 people

    Russian soldiers wrote a chilling message of revenge on the missile (pictured Friday being inspected by Ukrainian investigators) that killed at least 39 people - including four children - and wounded 87 when two strikes hit a railway station in east Ukraine today, as thousands of desperate evacuees tried reach safer parts of the country

    Russian soldiers wrote a chilling message of revenge on the missile (pictured Friday being inspected by Ukrainian investigators) that killed at least 39 people – including four children – and wounded 87 when two strikes hit a railway station in east Ukraine today, as thousands of desperate evacuees tried reach safer parts of the country 

    Kramatorsk is found in the east of the country, about 80 miles west of Luhansk. Pictures this week have shown hundreds of people at the station boarding trains heading west

    Kramatorsk is found in the east of the country, about 80 miles west of Luhansk. Pictures this week have shown hundreds of people at the station boarding trains heading west

    EU states on Thursday approved new punishing sanctions against Russia, including an EU embargo on coal imports, in the wake of evidence of torture and killings emerging from war zones outside Kyiv. 

    So far, banning natural gas has remained out of reach, but not because of lack of support from the European parliament.

    The legislature approved a resolution by a 513-22 margin – with 19 abstentions – demanding ‘an immediate full embargo on Russian imports of oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas.’

    Even if the move underscores the EU’s determination to act against the Kremlin, it carried little more than moral weight, since it is up to the member states themselves to unanimously impose such bans.

    Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has pushed for foreign leaders to go further on cutting ties with the Kremlin.

    ‘As long as the West continues buying Russian gas and oil it is supporting Ukraine with one hand while supporting the Russian war machine with another hand,’ he said in Brussels.

    He took particular umbrage with Germany, urging it to cut red tape and speed up support to Ukraine.

    ‘While Berlin has time, Kyiv doesn’t,’ Mr Kuleba said.

    Germany has faced criticism from Ukraine and other European nations, including Poland, with claims it has been too slow to phase out Russian energy.

    Robert Habeck, the German economy and energy minister, has announced plans to stop importing oil and coal from Russia this year, and gas by mid-2024.