Kharkiv – besieged, bombed out, liberated. This city symbolises the absolute madness of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the immeasurable suffering which people, especially here in the east of the country, face every day. The border with Russia is less than 40 km away. Connected by a shared language, there were close ties and a high volume of cross-border traffic before the war. Today you can see the deep scars of Russia’s destructive fury on practically every street corner. Almost 500,000 of the former 1.5 million inhabitants of Kharkiv were forced to flee.
However, this city also epitomises Ukrainians’ incredible endurance and courage. 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. This includes the winter relief we have provided. Generators and transformers, fuel and blankets are now saving lives on the ground. And this includes further arms supplies, which Ukraine needs to liberate those citizens still suffering the terrors of Russian occupation.
What is more, it is important to me that we do not lose sight of Ukraine’s place in our European family during this winter of war. Ukrainians are fighting every day for the right to live in self-determination. They see their future in Europe, in the EU. I would therefore also like to 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.