Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček has been meeting local leaders on a two-day visit to Ukraine. He has held talks with his Ukrainian counterpart and announced the creation of a special Czech-Ukrainian forum, as well as visiting the blockaded port city of Mariupol in the east of the country.
Although the Czech Republic has officially supported EU sanctions aimed at Russia following the latter’s actions in Ukraine, the remarks of various Czech officials, including some MPs and President Miloš Zeman, have sometimes been interpreted as supportive of Russia’s occupation of Crimea.
To reaffirm the official Czech stance on the ongoing issues and, he says, to bring relations between the two countries up to their full potential, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček is currently undertaking a two-day trip to Ukraine.
After arriving on Monday, Mr. Petříček met with his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin. At a joint press conference he said that despite no longer sharing a common border, Czechs still think of Ukraine as a neighbour and that his country is not indifferent to what is going on in its own neighbourhood.
“We understand the difficulty of Ukraine’s situation. It has to fight on two fronts. On one hand against Russian aggression and pro-Russian separatists, on the other it has to modernise.
“Ukraine is a key country in the Eastern Partnership and I believe it will also become its flagship.”
It was no accident that Mr. Petříček spoke of the Ukraine’s role in the Eastern Partnership. The programme, which is currently celebrating its tenth anniversary of existence, was founded during the Czech Republic’s EU presidency in 2009.
Since 2014 the Czech Republic has been sending humanitarian support to the victims of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Last year a government decree extended financial support until 2021 and placed Ukraine as one of the countries targeted for foreign development.
The two foreign ministers further agreed on establishing a special Czech-Ukrainian Forum, which will focus on shared history, mutual co-operation and future questions.
Mr. Klimkin also said that the two ministers had discussed energy questions connected to the current construction of Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline connecting Russia with Germany through the North Sea that would increase the Ukraine’s vulnerability from Russian gas cut-offs.
“We also discussed energy questions. Specifically Nord Stream, because it is a political project aimed at enabling political manipulation within Europe.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Petříček visited the eastern part of the country togther with his Ukrainian and Danish counterparts.
The tour included the port city of Mariupol which the Czech minister said was suffering from a de-facto Russian naval blockade.