Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 30.01.2019
Senior European politicians visited the battlefront where the Russian Federation is invading Ukraine on Tuesday. They saw and heard a lot about what communities go through when they’re faced with the reality of international war up close. The foreign ministers of the Czech Republic and of Denmark visited the city of Mariupol and the village of Hnutove on January 29. Next week, all EU foreign ministers meet to discuss the Russian Federation’s act of war against Ukraine on 25 November 2018 in the Black Sea. It is to be hoped that the impressions the Czech and Danish foreign ministers give to their colleagues will lead to new and stronger sanctions on the people and entities in the Russian Federation responsible for tearing apart the peace of Europe.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Tomáš Petříček, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Anders Samuelsen went to Mariupol, Ukraine’s largest port on the Sea of Azov. They were hosted by Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin. Ukrainian Navy boats were in transit from Odesa to Mariupol when they were attacked by Russian Federation forces a little over two months ago. The visiting foreign ministers took a short trip on an armoured gunboat exactly like the “Nikopol” and the “Berdyansk” that were shot up and captured by the Russians (a Ukrainian Navy tug, the “Yany Kapu,” was rammed and also captured by the Russians).
The Russians were paying attention to the presence of the EU ministers, and temporarily lifted the maritime blockade it has imposed on Ukrainian shipping in the Sea of Azov. “A few days before this visit Rossiya began to let through our vessels to Mariupol. Even the very fact of the visit is an effective element of pressure from our European friends and colleagues,” said Pavlo Klimkin.
Tomáš Petříček, Anders Samuelsen and Pavlo Klimkin went to Hnutove after Mariupol. Hnutove is a village 10 kilometres by road from the outskirts of Mariupol, to the north-east. In the fields to the east of the village are defensive fortifications of the Ukrainian army, then no-man’s-land, then the trenches of 1st Army Corps (so-called “DPR”) of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. The European politicians were standing on the front line of the Russian invasion of Europe.
The foreign ministers witnessed the operation of the “Hnutove” civilian checkpoint, a humanitarian corridor which runs through the nearby village of Pyshchevyk.
The visit of Czech foreign minister Tomáš Petříček and Danish foreign minister Anders Samuelsen to the front line of Russian invasion should have proved an eye-opener. This was an opportunity for friends of Ukraine to better understand the real threat posed by Russian aggression against Donbas and against the waters of the Sea of Azov.
Next week’s meeting of EU foreign ministers is crucial. Europe must stand tough against Putin at war, especially after the outrage of the November 25 attack. Europeans who live in Donbas deserve real support … after all, Ukraine is Europe.