Joint Trip of Austrian and Czech Foreign Ministers to Ukraine

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: July 21, 2022; 19:20 ♦ (Vindobona)

Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg traveled to Kyiv with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský. In addition to talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, the program included visits to the Hostomel and Irpin war sites, which testify to the sheer brutality of Russia's Invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg traveled to Kyiv with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons, Jorge Franganillo, CC BY 2.0

Originally, the trip was planned in the so-called Slavkov format (Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic), but Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok had to cancel at short notice due to COVID.

The three-country group of Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic was founded at the end of January 2015 in Slavkov (Austerlitz in German). This format aims to improve cooperation between the three countries.

The Slavkov foreign ministers already traveled to Ukraine on February 7, 2022, a few weeks before the Russian war of aggression began.

Meeting with President Zelenksyy

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a meeting with the Foreign Ministers of Austria Alexander Schallenberg and of the Czech Republic Jan Lipavský.

According to the Ukrainian Presidency, Zelenskyy thanked Austria and the Czech Republic for supporting the decision to grant Ukraine the status of a candidate for accession to the European Union.

According to Zelenskyy, this is a powerful support and Ukraine has "a lot of work ahead regarding the important things that European society, the European Council and the European Commission advise" for Ukraine."

The President expressed confidence that Ukraine will meet all the requirements for EU membership. "I would really like to open a new page in the life of Ukraine as a full member of the European Union. And this new page is the beginning of a dialogue regarding the accession to the European Union," the Head of State emphasized.

Given the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted that Ukraine has to count on the Czech Republic's support in this matter.

The President thanked Austria and the Czech Republic for helping Ukraine during a full-scale Russian invasion. Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude in particular to the Czech Republic for the powerful defense support, which is important for Ukraine's defense against Russia. In addition, the President expressed his gratitude to Austria for providing our country with ambulances and fire trucks as humanitarian aid.

Meeting with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba

Before their appointment with President Zelenskyy, Schallenberg and Lipavský met with their Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv.

According to the Austrian Foreign Ministry (BMEIA), the visit is a "clear sign of solidarity" of the Slavkov-3 with Ukraine. According to Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, the "message to Russia is clear", that the Slavkov format does "not accept that the borders are redrawn with tanks and missiles." This message was assured in the dialog between the Foreign Ministers of Austria, Ukraine and the Czech Republic.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský, whose country currently holds the EU Council presidency, announced his intention to revise the EU's Russia strategy, according to the Czech Foreign Ministry. He invited his Ukrainian counterpart Kuleba to an EU foreign ministers' conference in Prague, which is to deal with this issue at the end of August. Ukraine would have to pay for Western underestimation of Russian aggression for a long time, he said.

The Austrian and Czech Foreign Ministers underlined that they support Ukraine and they do that particular by supporting sanctions against Russia and comprehensive financial assistance.

Kuleba thanked the two guests from Vienna and Prague for their support. In contrast to neutral Austria, the NATO country Czech Republic also supplies weapons to Ukraine, but Austria is a "reliable partner" in many other areas - including in connection with the granting of EU candidate status to Ukraine.

Thus, according to BMEIA, Austrian financial support for the Ukrainian population in Ukraine and the particularly affected neighboring states since the beginning of the Russian aggression on February 24, 2022, amounts to more than 80 million euros, including 61.5 million from the Foreign Disaster Fund (AKF). The funds benefit, among others, the organization Neighbors in Need, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations Children's Fund and several Austrian NGOs. In addition, Austria is supporting Ukraine by caring for the wounded and taking in more than 80,000 Ukrainian displaced persons to date.

About a possible settlement of the war of aggression, Foreign Minister Schallenberg stressed that every effort must be made to this end, but that this could not be done without Ukraine's consent. A peaceful solution must not be imposed on the country from outside.

Visits of the Foreign Ministers to Hostomel and Irpin

The foreign ministers also visited the airport in the Kyiv suburb of Hostomel and the village of Irpin, which was the scene of Russian war crimes. In the process, the ministers became aware of the full extent of the horrors of Russia's war against Ukraine.

"The images get under your skin. Before February 24, we could not have imagined the inhumane atrocities and bloodshed such as the war crimes in Bucha, Irpin and other Ukrainian towns, in our immediate neighborhood", said Foreign Minister Schallenberg.

Given these images, Foreign Minister Schallenberg reiterated that those responsible must not go "unpunished, but must be held accountable." In this respect, Austria, together with Slovakia and the Czech Republic, belongs to a group of more than 40 states that have referred the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In addition, the Foreign Ministry is providing 100,000 euros to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC to advance the investigation of war crimes committed in Ukraine.

Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe Integration and Foreign Affairs

Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic

President Of Ukraine