European foreign ministers, meeting in special session on March 4, called for a humanitarian corridor and highlighted the need to further support EU frontline member states hosting the majority of those fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine.
They also agreed to step up work on the humanitarian front, according to a statement by the Council of the EU issued after the meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers, which was also attended by the foreign ministers of the US, Canada and the UK, by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and by Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and, joining via video link, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba.
The EU foreign ministers agreed to further reduce the EU’s energy dependency from Russia, the Council of the EU statement said.
Addressing a briefing after the meeting, Borrell said that the humanitarian situation on the ground was becoming more and more difficult due to the continuous bombing by the Russian army.
“They are shelling residential housing, schools, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure. It looks like they want to destroy Ukraine,” Borrell said.
“Taking into account that right now the figure of the number of people who are escaping Ukraine and crossing the borders of the European Union and also other countries like Moldova, is today more than one million people and it is increasing very quickly. More will come. We are above one million in less than a week,” he said.
“We strongly call for a humanitarian corridor. The International Red Cross is not able to enter the country and we need green corridors for the Red Cross to be able to help the Ukrainian people,” Borrell said.
Borrell said that Russian President Vladimir Putin must allow humanitarian aid to go into Ukraine.
The EU foreign policy chief said that the EU was committed to providing access to everyone fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians had already arrived in the EU and are going to several member states, from the borders into the EU, he said.
Borrell said that EU ministers had highlighted the need to further support front-line EU countries and had asked the European Commission to look into this and to mobilise resources from the budget of the EU and the Commission services.
“More dangerous than this, overnight, we saw the Russian attacks in the direct vicinity of Ukraine’s nuclear power plant – the biggest Ukrainian power plant has been attacked.
“And this is unacceptable because it can produce catastrophic consequences that can provoke an ecological and humanitarian catastrophe for the entirety of Europe,” Borrell said.
The Russia army has to respect emergency safe zones around nuclear sites, “and we need to ensure the safety of these zones because the safety of the entire European continent can be affected”.
Borrell said that the “most important and pressing question, the most important and pressing request” was that Russia ceases its military operations and withdraws from the territory of Ukraine.
“The same goes for Belarus, who is a full accomplice to Moscow.”
Borrell said that it must be ensured that sanctions against Russia are fully implemented “loopholes have to be closed and I hope that they will undermine the Russian war machine”.
“President Putin intended to divide us, but he achieved just the contrary: we are more united and more determined then ever, much more than before the Russian aggression.”
Borrell told the briefing: “This is not the East against the West. This is not a remake of the Cold war.
“We are defending the sovereignty of the nations, all nations. We are defending the territorial integrity of a state, all states. In the East, in the West, in the North and in the South.
“It is not again the battle of two hemispheres. We are defending international law, the sovereignty of states, their territorial integrity and the no violation of the borders. This is something that is valid for anyone in the world.”
“We are not enemies of the Russian people,” Borrell said.
“We are friends of Ukraine; we are supporting them in their fight, but we are not against the Russian people. This is Putin’s war, and only Putin can end it,” he said.
(Photo of Borrell: EC Audiovisual Service)
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