MEP: Wrong for western countries to close down Ukraine diplomatic missions

Urmas Paet MEP (Reform).
Urmas Paet MEP (Reform). Source: ERR

Democratic states closing or significantly scaling down their diplomatic missions in Ukraine is the wrong step to take, MEP Urmas Paet (Reform) says.

Doing so: "Increases societal stress in Ukraine and is also simply an incomprehensible decision," Paet, who is deputy chair of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee and a former Estonian foreign minister, said Sunday.

"Under the current Russian pressure, a sizable and substantial international presence in Ukraine is especially needed," he went on, in order not to give up on the country and see it further slip into Russia's orbit.

"Russia's goal is to gain Ukraine in its sphere of influence; for Ukraine to give up on its moves towards the EU and NATO," Paet went on, and said that Ukraine has so far withstood tremendous Kremlin pressure.

This pressure, when twinned with western nations' calls to leave Ukraine, or even to have already done so, also represents a serious blow to the Ukrainian economy, Paet went on.

He said: "Increasing defensive capabilities is expensive in any case, but if there is a halt in investment and the departure of foreign firms, the situation will get even more complicated. Such confidence in the economic environment could not be restored for a very long time."

Not only should existing missions in Kyiv remain intact, but other missions should also be opened in other parts of the country, for instance in the eastern region, Paet said.

Western leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron or Britain's foreign secretary Liz Truss traveling to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Putin's foreign ministry, Sergei Lavrov, was also a red flag for Paet.

"These types of meetings should take place in a neutral location," he said, noting that while western countries were calling for their citizens, the families of diplomats or even diplomats themselves to leave the country, no such appeals have been made by Russia.

On Friday, Estonia's foreign ministry urged Estonian citizens to leave Ukraine, or not to travel there unless absolutely necessary.

While some airlines have stopped flying to Ukraine also, the country's airspace remains open, Reuters reported Sunday.

EU ambassador to Ukraine: Only eight essential EU diplomats remaining in Ukraine

The EU's ambassador to Ukraine, Matti Maasikas, an Estonian, remains in-country, daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) reports (link in Estonian).

Maasikas told EPL that: "Every country has responsibilities to its staff diplomats and its citizens. The former are subject to government orders, whereas the latter, of course, are not bound to these."

"It is no secret that on February 11, several countries heightened their travel warnings [to Ukraine] and several governments took decisions regarding their diplomats and their families. It is up to the decision-makers to comment on the information on which these decisions are based," Maasikas went on, adding that EU diplomats who do not perform essential functions in Ukraine, as well as the families of all diplomats, had been instructed to leave the country.

Matti Maasikas. Source: ERR

"EU diplomats and other employees are subject to the EU's duty of care and must follow the guidelines of their employer, they are, whatever they are," Maasikas told EPL.

Of the essential EU diplomats, eight remain in Ukraine, and Maasikas is one of those eight, he said, reiterating comments made on Friday that: "I am in Kyiv and am staying here," adding that any rumors to the contrary were "fake news".

The European External Action Service (EEAS) is monitoring the situation and warning sand edicts from EU Member States and other countries, but ultimately, the decisions will be taken at EEAS headquarters, he added.

The U.S., the U.K., Finland, Latvia, Norway, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are among those nations who have been withdrawing embassy staff from the country, Maasikas went on.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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