ΑΤΗΕΝS – Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias’ idea to bring food and critical supplies to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol during Russia’s invasion – it’s home to some 150,000 ethnic Greeks – were dashed by the Kremlin.
French President Emmanuel Macron, trying to coordinate the venture along with Turkey and Greece, spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin who said it wouldn’t be allowed unless the city surrendered, said Kathimerini and media reports.
Macron’s office said the operation was not possible “at this stage” after his one-hour-long call with Putin was fruitless although the Russian leader was pulling back some troops from the capital of Kiev during peace talks.
Thousands of civilians may have died in Mariupol since bombing began four weeks ago, the head of the UN human rights mission told Reuters, with other reports showing people, including children, dying of thirst and without food.
There had been a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at getting the humanitarian mission into Ukraine and Mariupol, but Russian troops earlier had stopped other attempts and detained aid workers at checkpoints.
The European Union imposed sanctions, but didn’t stop buying Russian oil and gas that’s the bloc’s major source – giving Russian money to finance the war – Turkey has refused to go along although it’s been a candidate to join the EU since 2005.
Diplomatic efforts had been underway, said Kathimerini, but it wasn’t indicated if Dendias had reached out to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whom he has met many times, to assist.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier welcomed the idea and the paper said that Dendias has also spoken to Ukrainian foreign chief Dmytro Kuleba although at that time it was unclear how supply and food trucks would get through.
Russia is still bombing civilian targets in the city and had barred any idea of a humanitarian corridor to let them out but the report said that Dendias wanted to escort vehicles along with the President of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said that the Greek community in Ukraine “is in our thoughts, as it’s going through a trying time and is suffering the hardships of war,” in her message for March 25 Independence Day.
The Diaspora in Ukraine is “showing courage drawn from the love for their homeland, looking forward to the quickest possible end to the war and the beginning of a new life from the ashes of destruction,” she noted, the state Athens-Macedonia News Agency AMNA said.
Sakellaropoulou said the Greek struggle for independence 200 years ago is a constant reminder “of the value of our nation’s unity and harmony which transcends our borders.”
She pointed out that the idea for Greece’s struggle for independence from Ottoman rule began in Ukraine’s port city of Odessa, “while the revolution was sparked in the heroic city of Mariupol, where a ‘little Greece’ became prosperous on the Sea of Azov.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who said there was “full solidarity” with Ukraine, pulled back, ignoring Ukraine’s request to stop doing business with Russia while allowing Russian ships to dock in Greece and Greek ships to still go to Russia.
Greece, after providing small arms and other defense gear for Ukraine’s military, said it wouldn’t sent anti-aircraft equipment and do no more to help the battle against Russia for now.