March 20, 2023

The head of French diplomacy arrived Thursday in Odessa (southwest), whose region was targeted the same day by a new salvo of Russian missiles, to show Paris’ support for Ukraine.

“To Odessa! To mark France’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, today like yesterday,” tweeted Catherine Colonna, while two key energy sites in the region were damaged by strikes.

“Thank you for your courageous visit” replied on the same channel his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kouleba, deeming French support “crucial” as the first anniversary of the invasion of his country by Russia approaches.

The French minister had stopped in Moldova on Wednesday evening before going to Odessa on Thursday. His arrival was delayed due to the new salvo of Russian missiles which killed at least one person in kyiv and caused power outages in several regions.

Ms. Colonna and Mr. Kouleba will notably “take stock of the immediate and urgent needs of Ukrainians in military and civilian matters”, said a diplomatic source.

It is a question of supplying the Ukrainians with materials which are “coherent with their needs”, she specified, adding that the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had “not expressed a need for (French) Leclerc tanks” for “obvious” reasons, namely logistics, maintenance and inventory issues.

“For any army, having 10 different types of tanks in its forces creates a logistical equation that is almost insoluble,” said this source, insisting that the Ukrainians “wanted from the start ” Leopard 2 tanks that Germany finally promised on Wednesday to deliver to Ukraine.

This is the fourth visit by Catherine Colonna to Ukraine since the outbreak of war by Russia on February 24, 2022.

Its presence in Odessa is highly symbolic following the inclusion by Unesco of the historic center of this famous city on the shores of the Black Sea on the list of world heritage in danger, because of the “threats of destruction” hovering over it. .

Odessa is also “the gateway to the even greater destabilization of Moldova, Romania and the European territory as a whole”, explained the diplomatic source. Catherine Colonna was also to visit a center for refugees from Kherson (south), in which operate NGOs supported financially by her ministry.

She is expected Friday in Romania, where she will meet in Bucharest with the President and Prime Minister of this country.

The minister will go before to Cincu, a military base used by NATO where the Leclerc battalion is deployed, which is the French contribution to the reinforced presence of the Atlantic Alliance on its eastern flank, with Dutch and Belgian soldiers.

Catherine Colonna will be accompanied by her Romanian, Bogdan Aurescu, and Dutch, Wopke Hoekstra counterparts. She was to return Friday evening to Paris.

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