European External Action Service

02/08/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/08/2023 04:26

Press remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell announcing support for demining during a visit to a demining site


Press remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell announcing support for demining during a visit to a demining site

Thank you to the Deputy Minister [for Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Mary] Akopian for accompanying me to this visit. A place where Ukrainians are trying to clean their land, and they have a lot of work.

30% of your territory is being affected by some kind of explosives s due to the war and due to the will of the Russian troops when they withdraw of leaving mines [behind] in order to cause damage to the civilian population.

Unfortunately, Ukraine is one of the most contaminated countries in the world by military remnants of any kind and these people are doing here a gigantic work in order to clean the landscape and make it safe.

We have seen the old equipment coming from the Soviet times and we have seen the new equipment that we will try to bring more [of]. This is very expensive material, as you can imagine.

So, we will try to support you. And there is the first tranche of €25 million in order to increase your modern equipment to save lives and allow your soldiers to work in safer conditions.

This is one of the worst consequences of the war: when the countryside, the forest, even the waters, become contaminated by explosives. The civilian population, mainly children, are the victims of that.

So, you can count on our support.


Q. We witness the results of the war activities, and you keep on saying that Europe stands ready to help after the war. Are there any plans in terms of recovery? Perhaps there have already been several financial estimations of the amounts needed?

The European Union will support the recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine by all means and all dimensions. But, you know, when we talk about reconstruction, the best thing is to avoid destruction. We are still in the phase of avoiding destruction. If we avoid destruction, [there] will be less work on reconstruction.

We will support the reconstruction but, [for] the time being, still, the war is raging. And this is the moment of providing anti-aircraft weapons, providing arms, providing the means and tools to avoid destruction.

The time of reconstruction will come. When peace will come, Ukraine will emerge as a free, democratic and prosperous country. And then thousands and hundreds of millions will be needed. But for the time being, what we have to do is to avoid destruction.

Q. What is the role for the EU, concerning the long-term consequences of the conflict, be it demining or reconstruction? How do you see the role?

Support. The word is support. The Ukrainians are doing theirs, and we have to do our job. These soldiers, these people, are Ukrainians. And we have to support them, support [them] by all means - providing the millions for that material. Look at this other one. It is not the same thing to work with this or with that. We cannot substitute them, we have to support them. And this brand-new material costs money. And our role is to support them [by] providing the material they need in order to do their work, in a best safety conditions. And this means saving lives.

Q. What are the chances of Ukraine of becoming a member of the European Union in two years?

You heard yesterday the President of the [European] Commission [Ursula von der Leyen]. And, today, you will be listening to the President of the European Council [Charles Michel].

I think the important thing is to hear what she said yesterday and what they will re-say today again. Ukraine is doing all the efforts necessary in order to fulfill all the conditions.

This is a merit-based process. I have seen the Ukrainian government fully engaged, and not only the Ukrainian government, everybody fully engaged and fulfilling the conditions in order to become a member [of the European Union] in the shortest possible time. What I am sure of today, after the meeting with the two presidents, you will have more news about it.

Today we are here for a more humble thing to do, but important: it is to save the lives of the Ukrainian people, to avoid the random walk of the death among the forest.

Q. You just called it a "random walk of death in the forest". 30% of the territory of Ukraine is potentially at risk. Sorry, but no one lives around here, outside of Kyiv. No doubt that, in 5 years' time, kids will be playing and running around. What do you make of a country that sows landmines across 30% of its neighbour's territory, in forests outside their capital, where children will be playing, and it has no military value.

That is the will of killing. That is the will of [causing] damage, of creating the pain because, as you said, it is not a military value. It is a matter of destroying, it is a matter of making people suffer, making people afraid, mining the morale of the people, making them feel weak, making them feel afraid.

This is part of the terror, and terror is one of the tools that Russia is using against Ukrainians. There is the big terror with bombing, and then there is the small terror with small mines in a walk that kills children creating pain within a family, and mine the moral of the people.

That is why it is so important this work. That is why it is so important.

Link to the video (starting from 2:35):