Zelensky thanks Greek FM Dendias: “He is the first European official to offer to help save people in Mariupol”

Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his gratitude to Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias during his speech in the Italian parliament for being the first European official who plans to lead a humanitarian mission to the besieged Greek-founded city of Mariupol.

“He is the first European official who has decided to support the work of the humanitarian corridors to Mariupol, in order to save our people in the city and transport humanitarian aid, which is very important for everyone there,” the Ukrainian president said during his speech on Tuesday.

Dendias on Tuesday announced that he intends to accompany a humanitarian aid mission to the city saying that he had sent an official notice to the Ukrainian side to facilitate the mission’s passage and to the Russian side to not impede it.

It is recalled that up to 120,000 ethnic Greeks live in Mariupol and its surrounding villages and towns, including Sartana.

The announcement was made after his meeting with the Greek Consul General in Mariupol, Manolis Androulakis, who returned to Greece on Sunday.

“I am requesting today in an official note sent to the Ukrainian side that it facilitate and another note to the Russian side not to hinder the sending of humanitarian aid to Mariupol,” Dendias said.

“I intend to accompany this mission in person, in coordination with the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Mauer, with whom we are already in contact,” the Greek Foreign Minister added.

“Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine continues unabated. The priority of the Greek government is the protection of our expatriates, but also of the civilian population,” he said.

Therefore, he also announced that a coordination and reception group will be set up in Bucharest, headed by Fragiskos Kostelenos with the participation of the Ambassador to Bucharest, Sofia Grammata, Odessa’s Consul General Dimitris Dochtsis and Manolis Androulakis, who will depart soon.

He also stressed the need to protect the civilian population in his speech at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday and in his personal meeting with EU High Representative Josep Borrell.

“Greece will continue to be present in the region,” the Greek Foreign Minister said, adding: “In an area where the Greek element has been established for centuries.”

The Foreign Minister stressed that “the first step, when things return to normal, will be the reconstruction of the maternity hospital of Mariupol.”

“And beyond that, our coordination with the EU to do what we can to return it to its previous state and to facilitate our expatriates to return to normalcy after the tragedy,” he added.

This week Ukraine rejected Russia’s ultimatum to surrender the port city.

“Mariupol has a practical and symbolic significance for Russia,” Andrii Ianitskyi, the head of the centre for excellence in economic journalism at Kyiv School of Economics, told the Guardian.

“It is a large port city and a base for Ukrainian armed forces. So if Russians want to have a land corridor [from the Donbas] to Crimea, they need to control the city.”

The port city is a metallurgical centre for iron and steelworks, heavy machinery manufacturing, and ship repairs. Ukraine’s largest steel plants owned by the country’s leading metallurgical group, Metinvest, are located in Mariupol.

One of them, Azovstal, was badly damaged by Russian shelling this week.

In 2021, the main destinations for Ukrainian exports from the city’s port were European and Middle Eastern countries such as Italy, Lebanon, and Turkey.

The port had suffered after the start of the Donbas war, having lost transit cargo traffic from former markets, including Russia.

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