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Van der Bellen visits Ukraine


Two days before the now confirmed EU-Ukraine summit in Kyiv, Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen arrived in the Ukrainian capital on Wednesday morning for a solidarity visit. He traveled together with Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) and ÖVP Economics Minister Martin Kocher. A meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is planned for the afternoon.

With his trip to the Ukraine attacked by Russia, Van der Bellen wants to signal support: “We stand by Ukraine, we won’t let them down.” The joint trip with the minister shortly after Van der Bellen’s second The Federal President justified the swearing in by saying that Austria was “militarily neutral”, “but not politically”. “Following a long humanitarian tradition, Austria supports the attacked country on several levels.”

In addition to meeting Zelenskyj, Van der Bellen will visit aid projects with Austrian participation. For example, Van der Bellen visited the Kiev suburb of Bucha and a school there. The delegation with Van der Bellen flew from Vienna to Rzeszow in Poland and traveled from there to Kyiv by night train. For security reasons, the trip was not announced in advance.

Van der Bellen: Comparable to colonial wars

The Ukraine is exposed to a war of aggression that is second to none, said the Federal President on arrival. This is comparable to colonial wars from the 19th century. The population was given a choice: “Either you accept being a province of Russia that is governed from Moscow, or everything is broken.”

Since there is resistance, the port city of Odessa now looks like a German city at the end of the Second World War. But the resistance will only last as long as the West provides help, according to the Federal President. Since Austria, due to its military neutrality, could not supply any war equipment, it provided humanitarian and medical aid.

Reconstruction in Butscha with Austrian help

For example, the reconstruction in Butscha was supported with the help of Austrian aid. Bucha has become a symbol of abominations. More than 450 people died in a massacre believed to have been carried out by Russian soldiers. Most of the bodies showed signs of having been shot, tortured, or beaten to death. Reconstruction started some time ago.

Together with a local partner, Volkshilfe supported the repairs to apartments and houses. The Association of Municipalities wants to support Ukraine with knowledge in setting up charitable organizations such as a volunteer fire brigade. The Red Cross also provided support with rescue vehicles and general medical care.

Criticism from the FPÖ and the Russian ambassador

FPÖ leader Herbert Kickl criticized the “solidarity visit” by the Federal President and some members of the government and the “ignoring” of neutrality. The head of state is developing more and more in the direction of a “state threat at the head of our republic”.

Criticism also came from the Russian Ambassador to Austria, Dmitri Lyubinsky, after Van der Bellen’s statement that Vladimir Putin was waging a “colonial war against Ukraine”. Lyubinsky: “On the contrary, the heroic mission of the Russian armed forces has a liberating and – if you want to use analogous terms – decolonization character.”

“European values under attack”

Van der Bellen emphasized that he had already said when he was sworn in that he would also pay close attention to protecting democracy and preserving European values in his second term of office: “In Ukraine, these European values and democracy are literally under Attack.”

Only on Tuesday did the Federal President visit his Slovakian counterpart Zuzana Caputova in Bratislava and talk to her about further aid for Ukraine. “We have an obligation to help,” said Van der Bellen. Since the beginning of the war, 118 million euros in state aid had been made available from Austria. He also praised the commitment of civil society. The campaign “Neighbors in Need” donated 56 million euros to Ukraine.

support from Austria

Gewessler is now providing another five million euros to rebuild damaged energy infrastructure. In addition, work must already be done to rebuild sensitive ecosystems that were destroyed by the war. In Kyiv, she will also sign a memorandum of understanding with her Ukrainian counterparts Ruslan Strilez (environment) and Herman Halushchenko (energy) in order to intensify cooperation in the areas of environment and energy.

In September 2022, Kocher signed a framework agreement together with the Ukrainian Minister for Economic Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Swyrydenko, which forms the basis for future economic cooperation with Ukraine and especially for participation in reconstruction. Kocher emphasized that this should also be used to talk about other ways of supporting the Ukrainian economy.

EU-Ukraine summit on Friday in Kyiv

An EU-Ukraine summit will be held in Kyiv on Friday, confirmed Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel will meet with Zelenskyy. “The fact that this summit will take place in Kyiv is a strong signal to both partners and enemies,” Schmyhal said.

It shows Russia that its efforts to sow discord among Kiev’s western allies and prevent Ukraine from joining the EU have been in vain. And it proves the “high level of cooperation and progress” in the cooperation between both sides. Consultations between the EU Commission and the Ukrainian government are to take place for the first time on Thursday.

Ukraine wants to press ahead with EU accession

According to Schmyhal, the EU-Ukraine summit is “extremely important” for Kiev’s bid for Ukraine to join the EU, which has been an official candidate country since 2022. Zelenskyj was even clearer: “We expect decisions from our partners in the European Union that (…) correspond to our progress. Progress that is obviously there – and that even despite the widespread war.” Reforms are being worked on in Kyiv.

In the course of the negotiations on EU accession, Zelenskyj has been taking action against corruption in government circles for some time. According to Zelensky, he is not yet finished with the reshuffle of management positions, and anyone who does not comply with the strict standards must expect to be fired.

Source: ORF.at News