On a trip shrouded in secrecy, 3 European leaders travel to Kyiv to offer support.

KYIV, Ukraine — The leaders of three eastern members of the European Union traveled to Kyiv on Tuesday on a high-risk mission that was kept under wraps until after they had boarded a train to the embattled Ukrainian capital.

Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, posted photos on Facebook of the men sitting round a table and poring over maps, and the Czech prime minister, Petr Fiala, did the same on Twitter.

“It is here, in war-torn Kyiv, that history is being made,” Mr. Morawiecki wrote. “It is here, that freedom fights against the world of tyranny. It is here that the future of us all hangs in the balance.”

Later in the day, Ukrainian media aired video footage of President Volodymyr Zelensky, in what has become his signature khaki green T-shirt and fleece, striding into a meeting room and sitting down with Mr. Morawiecki, Mr. Fiala and the prime minister of Slovenia.

“Your visit to Kyiv at this difficult time for Ukraine is a strong sign of support — we appreciate it,” Mr. Zelensky said in a statement released with the footage.

The photos released by European leaders earlier sought to convey a daring show of support for Ukraine three weeks after Russian troops invaded the country, and as the mayor of Kyiv warned of growing danger for the capital and its inhabitants.

The symbolism was powerful.

The Czech and Polish people were subjugated by the former Soviet Union and lived through decades of communist rule. Now, alarm has been growing that President Vladimir V. Putin is seeking to turn back the clock more than 30 years and trying to reclaim the lost Soviet sphere of influence.

The European leaders were reported to have traveled by train from the Polish border, a journey of at least seven hours. Ukrainian officials released few details about the trip.

Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, writing on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, embraced the visitors. “The courage of true friends of Ukraine,” he said. “Discussing support of Ukraine and strengthening sanctions against Russian aggression.”

There was no indication that Moscow had guaranteed safe passage for the prime ministers. Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said that the governments of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia had not been in touch with the Kremlin about Tuesday’s trip.

The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, visiting a burning apartment building hit in one of Tuesday’s strikes, applauded the visitors.

“Keep supporting Ukraine,” he said, “because we are fighting now not for Ukraine. This war touched everyone in the world, especially the European Union, the European family.”

Mr. Klitschko warned that his city — and the whole country — face great danger in coming days. Earlier, his office announced a two-day curfew for the capital.

On Tuesday, firefighters in Kyiv battled a fierce blaze in a 16-story apartment block for most of the day after a missile gouged a big crater at its entrance. They rescued residents through apartment windows by ladder through the thick smoke and later went back for some of the pets had been left behind. By midafternoon they had carried out two bodies in black body bags.

Some of the survivors sat on benches, reluctant to leave even as the authorities offered to take them to a refuge.

“There was a huge roar and all the windows shattered,” Yelena Derevyanko said. She and her husband, Vadym, lived on the 16th floor and were rescued by firefighters.

One of their neighbors, Mykola Fedkiv, a retired geologist, stood waiting all day hoping to get back into his apartment to collect his personal documents. “I came out with nothing,” he said. “I left everything: My telephone, my medicines, everything.”

The explosions had jolted him awake, and he fled his apartment on the 12th floor down the main stairs. A fire was already burning on the first floor and he climbed through the blasted entrance hall and into the bomb crater where people grabbed his arms and pulled him out.

Clutching a plastic bag of groceries someone had given him, he waved off a question as to where he would stay the night.

“God knows,” he said.

that the three traveling prime ministers had arrived “on behalf of” the European Union Council. However, E.U. officials said the men had not received the European Union’s blessing for their trip.

The visit by the three leaders created some unusual friction within the European Union, whose 27 member states have projected a united front against Moscow, taking extraordinary measures to punish it for the attack on Ukraine with record speed.

Prime Minister Morawiecki of Poland brought up his intention to visit Kyiv at an E.U. meeting last week at Versailles, outside Paris. But the visit to Kyiv never got a formal blessing from the bloc.

Still, the visit to Kyiv, which some E.U. officials worried might lead to promises that could not be kept, was welcomed as brave in parts of the bloc.

“This is Europe at its best,” declared a headline in the popular German tabloid Bild, on an article that said: “Putin’s war is not over as long as Europe is ready to defend its values. With all the means it takes to do so. Even if it’s just a train ride in the shadow of bombs and missiles.”

Carlotta Gallreported from Kyiv, and Matina Stevis-Gridnefffrom Brussels. Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting from Istanbul.

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