By Sergiy Karazy
KYIV (Reuters) -European Council President Charles Michel pledged European solidarity with Ukraine during a surprise visit to Kyiv on Wednesday and said justice must be done for alleged Russian war crimes.
Michel, the head of the European Council, which represents the European Union’s 27 member states, visited the town of Borodianka northwest of Kyiv before holding talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in the capital.
Ukraine suspects that Russian troops carried out atrocities in Borodianka and Bucha, another town near the capital. Moscow denies targeting civilians and has described the allegations as fabricated by Kyiv to justify more sanctions against it.
“There are no words … to explain what I feel. These are atrocities, these are war crimes. It must be punished. It will be punished,” Michel told a joint news conference with Zelenskiy in Kyiv.
He said separately on Twitter: “History will not forget the war crimes that have been committed here. … There can be no peace without justice.”
Michel’s trip followed visits this month to Kyiv by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.
“You are not alone,” Michel said, praising the courage of the Ukrainian people. “We are with you and will do everything which is possible to support you and to make sure that Ukraine will win the war.”
ZELENSKIY SEEKS OIL AND GAS EMBARGO
Michel said the EU had already provided Ukraine with 1.5 billion euros ($1.63 billion) of military equipment as well as imposing sanctions on Russia, but would look for more ways to respond to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
“I am convinced … that sooner or later we will target oil and gas,” he said, without giving details.
EU states have been divided over whether to impose an embargo on Russian oil or gas, with Germany among countries that are heavily dependent on energy imports from Russia.
Zelenskiy welcomed the “political signal” Michel had sent by visiting Borodianka, but urged Brussels to strengthen sanctions pressure on Russia and called for a “complete energy embargo including imports of oil and gas.”
He welcomed a sixth package of sanctions being prepared by the EU, but added: “Oil should be part of the sixth package. Without it this package will be empty, will not be powerful enough.”
Zelenskiy said he and Michel had also discussed answers that Ukraine has provided to a questionnaire on compliance with EU criteria which is considered a starting point for Ukraine in its drive for EU membership.
($1 = 0.9223 euros)
(Reporting by Kyiv newsroom; Additonal reporting by John Chalmers in Brussels; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Leslie Adler)