Foreign Minister Baerbock with her colleague Kuleba in Kharkiv
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock travelled to Kharkiv, in north-eastern Ukraine, with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, © Xander Heinl/photothek.de
On 10 January, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock travelled to Kharkiv, in north-eastern Ukraine, with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba. Ukraine’s second-largest city has seen heavy fighting in the past year and is situated only 40 kilometres from the Russian border.
Kharkiv severely affected by Russia’s war of aggression
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is situated less than 40 kilometres from the Russian border. In the early stages of the war, the city saw severe fighting and was exposed to heavy Russian artillery bombardment with many civilian casualties. In a counteroffensive in mid-May 2022, the Ukrainian forces managed to completely drive out the Russian forces from the surrounding Kharkiv region and put an end to the siege. More than one million people now live in Kharkiv again. Before the war this figure was around 1.5 million. The largely destroyed district of Saltivka, in the north-east of the city, which was visited by the Minister, was home to more than 300,000 people before the war. Now the district is barely inhabited, as almost all the residential buildings have been damaged.
Foreign Minister Baerbock stressed:
At the invitation of my Ukrainian colleague and friend Dmytro Kuleba, I want to see the situation here in Kharkiv for myself today and, above all, to listen to inhabitants of this city who have been hit so hard by the war in this bitter cold winter with temperatures currently falling to -15 degrees at night, something which is very hard for us to imagine. In all corners of Ukraine, from Kharkiv to Kherson and Kyiv, everyone should know that they can count on our solidarity and our support.
The cold is currently the greatest problem for the people
The Minister visited a warming station at a school and spoke with teachers and pupils from the former Kharkiv PASCH school no. 134 – a school with a special German profile – which was almost completely destroyed in the first few days of the war. In the district of Saltivka the Minister also visited a destroyed boiler room facility belonging to the regional combined heat and power plant no. 5. There, she spoke to Oleh Synyehubov, Governor of Kharkiv, and employees from the power plant. The CHP plant as a whole suffered only slight damage and is still functioning normally, providing a glimmer of hope to the people on the ground.
Foreign Minister Baerbock emphasised the special importance that the German Government attaches to winter relief, given the situation in the area. “Generators and transformers, fuel and blankets are now saving lives on the ground.”
Internet access: a lifeline for the people: 20 million euro for Starlink
Internet access is a lifeline for the local people and enables the rest of the world to see what is happening in Ukraine. Starlink is filling a gap where there is no longer any internet access due to the destruction of civilian infrastructure. Ukraine has asked Germany to help finance the Starlink satellite link. Foreign Minister Baerbock announced today that Germany will make available 20 million euro to this end. This is enough to finance 10,000 ground stations in total. A third of the ground stations will also benefit the Ukrainian armed forces. Communication in real time allows Ukrainian soldiers to precisely coordinate their efforts to defend their homeland and protect themselves more effectively from Russian attacks.
Bilateral talks with Foreign Minister Kuleba on the way to Kharkiv
The Ministers took the opportunity to discuss the current situation and the need for further support for defence against the Russian invasion during the train ride to Kharkiv. Other topics included ways to hold Russia accountable for the war crimes it has perpetrated and Ukraine’s prospects of accession to the EU.
Foreign Minister Baerbock said in this context:
I will also discuss the progress made in the accession process. The German Government intends to make quite concrete offers to Ukraine so that it can make headway in strengthening the rule of law, independent institutions and the fight against corruption, as well as alignment with EU standards.