European Commission officials have been warned not to dress in army green or khaki like Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to war-torn Ukraine.
Ursula von der Leyen, the commission chair, and most of her commissioners are in Kyiv on Thursday in a show of support ahead of Friday’s EU-Ukraine summit in the capital.
Before the visit, the EU executive sent out a dress code guide, which called for “usual business attire” and ruled out “green, khaki or too bright colours”.
The memo also suggested that visitors travel light with a backpack instead of a suitcase, the Politico website reported.
He also warned the college of commissioners to prepare for less gourmet food than they are used to in Brussels.
“Cold food boxes will be distributed on the train, but be prepared for basic supplies,” he said.
President Zelensky’s choice of military-style attire has helped make him an international icon. Boris Johnson has sold one of the president’s woolen jackets for £90,000 at an auction to raise funds for Ukraine.
The commission, which has not commented, is believed to have decided to reserve that look for Ukrainians during the visit.
The message may be motivated by a desire to send arms and support to Ukraine, but not to give the impression that the EU is ready to fight alongside it in a war with Russia.
Donning the neutral “uniform” of an EU bureaucrat could also be aimed at dampening Ukraine’s expectations of speedy entry into the bloc, which it applied to join after Russia’s invasion.
The commission will have to demand tough reforms and painstaking technical work in the years Kyiv is expected to take to come together, and the dull sobriety of civil servants could be a nod to that.
During Thursday’s visit, Ms von der Leyen praised Ukraine’s efforts to root out corruption, a key requirement for joining the EU.
“It comforts me to see that your anti-corruption agencies are on alert and effective in detecting cases of corruption,” he said at a news conference with Zelensky.
“I also congratulate them for reacting so quickly at the political level to make sure that the fight against corruption is delivering tangible results and is further intensified,” he added.
At a joint press conference, Zelensky warned that Russia was increasing its troops to “get revenge” on the West nearly a year after the invasion of Moscow.
“Now Russia is concentrating its forces. We all know that. It is preparing to try to take revenge, not only on Ukraine, but on a free Europe and the free world,” Zelensky said.
Ms von der Leyen, who is on her fourth visit to Ukraine, donned Ukrainian colors for her annual state of the union address last year to show EU support for the embattled nation.
Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, chose to dress casually in jeans and a vest when he met Zelensky in April last year.
Emmanuel Macron, who donned a suit when he visited Kyiv, drew accusations that he was copying the Ukrainian president after he was photographed wearing a Zelensky-style hoodie paired with jeans and a beard in March.