Liimets: Airspace is closed but you can still leave Ukraine by land

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It is still possible to leave Ukraine by land even though the airspace is closed, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maris Liimets (Center) told ERR on Thursday morning. Tougher sanctions are also needed, she said.

Speaking on the "Vikerhommik" radio show, Liimets said a state of emergency has been declared across Ukraine and people around the world are showing support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Asked what would happen to people who cannot leave the country due to canceled flights, she said: "We have been asking people to return home for several weeks. And although there is not yet a huge battle going on here, we are definitely asking people to return home."

The minister, who is currently on a working visit to Ukraine with the foreign ministers of Latvia and Lithuania, said she hopes to return to Estonia on Thursday.

The trio were supposed to visit the Ukrainian-Russian border today but as rocket attacks have been reported in the area this will no longer take place.

"I will return to Estonia today because it is not possible to hold official diplomatic meetings here. The Ukrainian government has a role to play in protecting their country and their people," she said.

The minister said the Estonian embassy in Kyiv is continuing to operate and will do so for as long as possible.

Tougher sanctions against Russia needed

Liimets said Western countries must now react quickly to Putin's attack on Ukraine. Sanctions packages have already been discussed and prepared and now need to be instigated.

A meeting of EU leaders will be held on Thursday evening.

In a joint statement issued with the foreign ministers of Latvia and Lithuania, Liimets called for Russia to be kicked out of the international SWIFT payment system and to be politically isolated.

Speaking about what Estonia can do, Liimets said there are two activities that need to be carried out.

The first is to strengthen Estonia's defense and deterrence capabilities in cooperation with NATO

Secondly, Ukraine must continue to receive support from NGOs and bilaterally. This should include aid in the political, economic and defense sectors.

"The last few weeks have made me think about how fragile the independence of nations remains. We must act to ensure the sovereignty and security of nations," she said. She said Estonia has made the right decisions in the 1990s to join the EU and NATO.

Responsibility for war, suffering, loss of life lies with Russia

In a statement, issued later on Thursday morning Liimets said: "Tonight, Russia began its large-scale military attack against Ukraine. Many people and countries have made long-standing efforts to make sure this does not happen but now it is clear that preventing the attack was beyond any of us.

"The responsibility for war, suffering, loss of life and damage lies solely with the one who brings it about with lies, excuses, threats and provocations.

"Russia's attack against Ukraine today is completely unacceptable and violates international law. Estonia, together with its allies and responsible international community must do their utmost to make sure Russia's aggression ends as soon as possible.

"This means we must impose the strongest sanctions possible on Russia, isolate them politically and continue offering every support to the state and people of Ukraine."

Editor's note: Additional comments from Eva-Maria Liimets were added to the article.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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