On 23 February 2022, during a visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, by high-ranking European women leaders, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gunda Reire, met with the spouse of the Ukrainian President, Olena Zelenska, and the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Olha Stefanishyna, and informed them that a rehabilitation centre for Ukrainian women, victims of sexual violence as the result of Russia’s aggression, would be opened in the Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk as early as the coming week. The Parliamentary Secretary underlined that the rehabilitation centre has been established with a significant financial support from Latvia. She noted that the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality was a priority for Latvia’s development cooperation policy. In the centre, the Ukrainian women will be able to receive shelter, legal, social and psychological assistance, and rehabilitation services, Gunda Reire said, adding that Latvia has been providing support for Ukraine from the very first day of the war.
The rehabilitation centre in Ivano-Frankivsk has been established as part of the project, “Refuge for women and girls, victims of war crimes”, implemented by the Centre MARTA Association with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In a conversation with the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Olha Stefanishyna, Gunda Reire commended Ukraine’s progress with the implementation of reforms despite the war-time conditions: “Support for Ukraine’s integration with the European Union is a lasting priority in the foreign policy of Latvia. With the help of development cooperation instruments, we shall continue practical support for reform processes in Ukraine, in particular, in the areas of good governance, the rule of law, and anti-corruption,” the Parliamentary Secretary stressed. Gunda Reire also reaffirmed Latvia’s support for NATO’s open-door policy and Ukraine’s ambition of joining NATO. At the same time, the Parliamentary Secretary noted that the enlargement decision would have to be unanimously taken by the Allegiance’s members.
The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out that Latvia strongly supported the enforcement of new sanctions on Russia. Sanctions policy against Russia is working out; while not being key to winning the war, the restrictive measures are an effective instrument to undermine the aggressor, Gunda Reire indicated.
At the Verkhovna Rada, a discussion was held with its Chairman, Ruslan Stefanchuk, the Deputy Chairperson, Olena Kondratiuk, and the Chairperson of the Committee on Ukraine's Integration into the EU, Ivanna Klympush Tsintsadze. The Parliamentary Secretary underlined that the Latvian Parliament had always been supportive of Ukraine, with the previous legislature of the Saeima declaring Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, condemning its military aggression against Ukraine and was crimes and recognising them as genocide against the Ukrainian people, as well as recognising the Great Famine, or the Holodomor, as genocide against the Ukrainian people. In line with the established practice, the newly-elected Parliament, too, is creating a group of members for parliamentary cooperation with Ukraine, Gunda Reire said.
Alongside representatives from the Red Cross of Ukraine and the UNDP, the Parliamentary Secretary also visited the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kyiv.
At the Holodomor Memorial in Kyiv, together with other heads of delegations, Gunda Reire paid tribute to the Ukrainian people who lost their lives during the man-made famine induced by Soviet authorities 90 years ago. At the location of a recent Russian missile strike on Kyiv, its victims were commemorated with a moment of silence and the lighting of candles.
In response to Austria’s initiative to visit Ukraine with the aim of supporting and expressing solidarity with women under war-time conditions, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affirs, Gunda Reire, together with women senior officials from several European Union Member States (Austria, Croatia, Germany, Lithuania, and Romania) as well as Liechtenstein, and the Deputy Speaker of the European Parliament, visited Kyiv.
The present visit is the first of its kind held for the purpose of demonstrating solidarity with Ukraine and drawing attention to the rights of women affected by warfare and to conditions encountered by women during and after the war.
During the visit, meetings took place with the spouse of the Ukrainian President, Olena Zelenska, the Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna, and women members of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada. The delegation also visited the headquarters of the Red Cross in Kyiv and the Survival Relief Centre and had a meeting with women students at Taras Shevchenko National University.
Latvia is one of the major supporters of Ukraine both in terms of absolute figures and the percentage of its GDP. Until now, Latvia has provided military assistance amounting to more than 300 million euros. The Latvian state, business community and society have also provided humanitarian aid and immediate assistance to Ukraine exceeding 18 million euros. Latvia has welcomed, and offered support to over 40 thousand Ukrainian refugees.