On 16 July in Kyiv, the Foreign Minister of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, together with the Foreign Minister of Iceland, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson met with representatives of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine including a monitor from Latvia Didzis Nīmants. Edgars Rinkēvičs spoke with the monitors about the developments in the eastern regions of Ukraine, and the Donetsk and Luhansk administrative regions (oblasts) in particular, where the government forces are fighting with armed separatists, and about the situation along the Ukraine-Russia border.
In Kyiv, the Latvian and Icelandic Foreign Ministers met with Leonid Kuchma, a former Ukrainian President who is now a Representative of the Trilateral Contact Group, and with Valeriy Chaly, the Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine. Ukrainian officials pointed out that armed separatists in the east of Ukraine continue receiving support from Russia. Ukrainian government officials called for the EU to use its levers of influence so that Russia ends its ongoing support for armed insurgents on Ukrainian soil and engages in constructive dialogue, and they stressed that their country’s decision in favour of a path towards integration with Europe is irreversible and supported by the overwhelming majority of the residents in Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Rinkēvičs confirmed staunch Latvian support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and strongly condemned Russia’s occupation of the Crimean Peninsula and the support Russia has been offering to armed separatists. The Latvian Foreign Minister expressed Latvia’s readiness to continue to offer medical assistance for the rehabilitation of a certain number of Ukrainian soldiers that have been wounded in action. The Minister said he will brief EU member states on his discussions in Ukraine and the viewpoints expressed.
Edgars Rinkēvičs called on Ukraine to continue to work steadily on reforms and to broaden the scope of its relations with the EU. “The signing of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine is not the outcome of the process, it is just the beginning. The possibilities offered by the agreement should now be used to their fullest extent. Latvia and the EU as a whole will provide Ukraine with the support and assistance it needs. We will continue supporting Ukraine also during Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of next year,” the Latvian Foreign Minister asserted.
Foreign Minister Rinkēvičs called for the cooperation between both countries to be further advanced not only through government contacts, but also through links established between central and local government institutions, universities and non-governmental organisations. Minister Rinkēvičs informed Ukrainian officials that the University of Latvia is ready to enroll 20 students from various Ukrainian regions in its European Studies programme. “Specific projects of this kind actually bring Ukraine closer to the European Union and strengthen the bonds of friendship between our nations,” Latvian Foreign Minister noted.
The Foreign Ministers of Latvia and Iceland spoke in a press briefing at the “Ukraine Crisis media center” in Kyiv. On 16 July, both ministers departed for Dnipropetrovsk to meet the region’s officials and to personally learn and find out about the situation on the ground in this area.