Austrian Parliamentarians Report on Visit to Ukraine

PeopleOther ♦ Published: December 12, 2022; 20:48 ♦ (Vindobona)

During a press conference representatives of the Bilateral Parliamentary Group Austria-Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine reported on their visit to war-torn Ukraine. Members of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), the Austrian Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), the Green Party and the NEOS took part in the trip.

Wolfgang Gerstl (ÖVP), Helmut Brandstätter (NEOS), Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic (GRÜNE) and Johann Kuhn. (From l. to r.) / Picture: © Parlamentsdirektion / Ulrike Wieser

The "enormous resilience" of the Ukrainian people and their focus on the future despite the adverse circumstances was very impressive for him, explained the chairman of the Bilateral Parliamentary Group Helmut Brandstätter (NEOS). Given this mood, probably no further major wave of refugees is to be expected shortly, Brandstätter said. The crucial issue, however, was the power and heating supply after the Russian attacks on the infrastructure, he said. Brandstätter expressed no sympathy for the FPÖ's non-participation in the trip and its basic attitude towards Russia and the Ukraine war.

Given the destroyed infrastructure, it was a great challenge to help people through the winter, Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic (Greens) emphasized the importance of humanitarian aid. Concerning sanctions, it is important to maintain a clear stance, as it is a matter of defending European values. In her opinion, Ukraine needs support in clarifying and documenting war crimes. After all, some 40,000 crimes are suspected. Austria could contribute here with its expertise, Ernst-Dziedzic said.

The people in Ukraine had no electricity, no water, no heating and not enough medicine, Wolfgang Gerstl (ÖVP) reported on the consequences of the Russian attacks on the civilian population. One could hardly imagine these living conditions in this country. The Ukrainians would not only fight for their freedom and their country, but also European values because they do not want to be "enslaved". Gerstl was shocked by reports of violations of the laws of war and international humanitarian law. He said these were acts that he would not have believed would still exist in the 21st century. Russia's actions against many Ukrainians do have similarities with the events of the Holodomor in the 1930s, Gerstl said. He argued, however, that attention should be focused not on historical debates but on current events so that something like this would not happen again.

Together with the Austrian NGO "Pharmacists without Borders", the parliamentarians gave an insight into their impressions and discussions with representatives of the Ukrainian parliament, government and civil society.

Johann Kuhn, a representative of the non-profit organization "Pharmacists without Borders", was impressed by the willingness of Austrians to help. His organization has so far collected €1.2 million for Ukraine aid. In addition to the monetary donations, pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies and organizations have also supported the association with donations in kind. These have been brought to Ukraine in aid convoys and handed over to the health administration there for further distribution.

Austrian Parliament