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Visit to eastern Ukraine: Baerbock gets an idea of ​​​​the destruction in Kharkiv

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In a secret operation, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock travels to the Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine, which was liberated in September. She also wants to send a signal in the direction of Vladimir Putin.

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Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has pledged permanent support to Ukraine against Russia’s war of aggression and on its way to the European Union. “We’ll be by your side as long as you need us,” said the Green politician after a four-and-a-half-hour visit to the war-torn eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv near the Russian border. “We will do everything we can to ensure that the children in Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kyiv can believe in a good future again.”

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During the visit, which was initially kept secret for security reasons, Baerbock was accompanied by the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and the Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany, Oleksii Makeiev. She is the first German cabinet member to travel to eastern Ukraine and the long-contested Kharkov since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression. The city of over a million inhabitants, which is only a good 20 kilometers from the border with Russia, has recently been subjected to Russian attacks. There are repeated air raid alarms, including during Baerbock’s visit.

Baerbock promised additional support of 20 million euros for mine clearance and winter aid, for example with generators, as well as another 20 million euros for better internet coverage. The money to expand the Starlink satellite internet system could finance 10,000 ground stations. According to the Federal Foreign Office, a third of this will also benefit the Ukrainian armed forces. The real-time communication allows the soldiers to coordinate their defense of their homeland and better protect against Russian attacks.

Kuleba: Demand for Leopard tanks not a “fixed idea”

Baerbock visited the country just days after the federal government’s decision to supply German Marder-type armored personnel carriers, which Ukraine had repeatedly requested.

Kuleba pressed for the supply of Leopard tanks. “We need these tanks to liberate our cities, villages and everything that is under Russian occupation,” he said. This is not a “fixed idea” – the German tanks are necessary “to save our energy infrastructure, to save the Ukrainians from crime”. Kuleba was convinced that Berlin would deliver the heavy battle tanks. “The longer this decision takes, the more people will die because of the Ukrainian army’s lack of armament,” he warned.

Baerbock emphasizes Ukraine’s EU prospects

It is important to her “that we do not lose sight of Ukraine’s place in our European family even in this winter of war,” said the minister. The federal government wants to make concrete offers so that the country can make progress in strengthening the rule of law, independent institutions, fighting corruption and aligning with EU standards.

Because the airspace over Ukraine is still closed, Baerbock first took a special train from Poland to the capital Kyiv at night. From there, together with Kuleba, she took the regular Intercity Express 722 to Kharkiv in the morning. Modern Korean trains, purchased by Ukraine for the 2012 European Football Championship, run on the route.

Baerbock first visited a destroyed substation with Governor Oleh Synyehubow and Mayor Ihor Terekhov. The Ukrainian side said it had already been attacked 15 times. The energy supply infrastructure is the main target of the Russian missile attacks that have been going on for months.

Power banks for sick and injured children

At Children’s Hospital No. 16, the minister met with patients and their parents. Among other things, she brought crayons and power banks as gifts – because of the Russian attacks, the electricity often goes out. A doctor reported: “The war also attacks the souls of children.” Baerbock praised that the bravest people in the world lived here. She told her daughters that too. She wants to show the world how strong the people of Kharkiv and especially the children are in defying this war. Baerbock’s daughters are 7 and 11 years old.

The minister also took a tour of the north-eastern district of Saltivka, which had been badly damaged by Russian attacks. In view of the Russian attacks on the infrastructure, she visited the heating room of a school, among other things. Temperatures in Kharkiv are currently in the double-digit range.

One of the most heavily shelled Ukrainian cities

Kharkiv is one of the most war-affected cities in Ukraine. According to the city administration, more than 8,000 houses were damaged by artillery and rocket attacks. Almost every house in the Saltivka district was damaged. But after the successful counter-offensive by the Ukrainians, the residents are also returning here. According to Governor Synyehubov, around 1.1 million people were living in the city again at the end of December – that’s almost 80 percent of the pre-war figure.

The Russians were never able to establish themselves in the Kharkiv region

The Ukrainians showed Baerbock the Kharkiv regional administration on the central Freedom Square, which was destroyed by Russian rockets on March 1. 29 people were killed in the second largest Ukrainian city. Immediately after invading Ukraine, the Russians briefly advanced to the outskirts of the city. However, they could not establish themselves there and were quickly pushed out again. They were largely forced to withdraw from the Kharkiv region in September – after a Ukrainian offensive that pushed the Russians behind the Oskil River.

Source: Stern

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