During the violent protests in Kyiv’s Independence Square on 18 and 20 February, nearly one hundred people lost their lives and many more were severely injured. The Federal Government pledged to support Ukraine in caring for the injured: the first 24 patients arrived in a Bundeswehr (armed forces) airplane in Berlin on 12 March, where they were welcomed by the Federal Government’s Human Rights Commissioner, Christoph Strässer.
The Bundeswehr’s “MedEvac” Airbus, which is effectively a flying intensive care unit, landed at Berlin’s Tegel airport on Wednesday afternoon. After the plane had come to a halt on the runway, not only a door but a whole section of the front of the aircraft opened in order to enable the patients to be taken out of the plane. Medical personnel from the Bundeswehr used a lifting platform to carefully lower the patients onto the runway and then took them to the ambulances waiting to take them to the Charité and Vivantes hospitals where they will receive treatment. 12 of the 24 patients are staying in Berlin, the remaining 12 were later flown to Ulm and Constance.
Positive and important signal
Before the arrival of the injured in Berlin, Strässer said he was pleased that it had been possible to arrange the treatment of 24 injured persons from Ukraine in German hospitals. In light of the political dimension of the conflict, he continued, it was important not to lose sight of the humanitarian situation in the country. In front of journalists and television cameras at Tegel airport, Strässer stated:
That we are prepared to assume responsibility and help wherever possible sends a strong message. This does not resolve the situation in Ukraine but it is a valuable sign that this is not just a matter of discussing and solving important political issues but also of helping the people affected. I would particularly like to thank not only the Bundeswehr but also the facilities here in Germany that have agreed to care for and treat the injured.
Many participants in the protests on Independence Square have gunshot or shell splinter wounds for which highly specialised hospitals in Germany offer treatment methods with good prospects. Among the patients are Maidan activists as well as severely injured police officers.
Up to 40 severely injured persons coming to Germany
The Federal Government’s humanitarian engagement is in response to the Ukrainian parliament’s appeal to the German Embassy in Kyiv to support Ukraine in caring for and treating people severely injured in the violent clashes. The Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of Defence, as well as the Victor Pinchuk Foundation in Ukraine will each assume part of the transport and treatment costs. A total of up to 40 injured people are to be treated in Germany, starting with those who need treatment most urgently.
Solidarity is a matter of course
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued the following statement on Sunday (9 March) concerning the admission of injured Ukrainians:
What happened in Independence Square in Kyiv on 18 and 20 February is tragic. Nearly one hundred people lost their lives and almost one thousand were severely injured when Ukrainians fired at each other in Maidan Square. The impact this will have on Ukraine’s future is as yet unknown. However, we want to help those injured to be able once more to live as happy and normal a life as possible.
Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen, too, said it was a matter of course for Germany to demonstrate solidarity with the people in Ukraine and help those injured in Independence Square.
Humanitarian commitment and diplomatic efforts
The Federal Government’s humanitarian commitment to Ukraine accompanies the diplomatic efforts to bring about a solution to the Crimea crisis. Last weekend, Foreign Minister Steinmeier warned of “a new rift in Europe”.
Through intense travel diplomacy last week he, together with European and international partners, endeavoured to find a way to defuse the recent escalation of the conflict.