Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre became the latest head of government to visit Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky on Friday, and he did not arrive empty-handed. As well as being shown some of the horrors of Russian attacks on civilians, Støre met with Zelensky and may tell him that Norway will increase financial aid to Ukraine by NOK 10 billion ($1.1 billion). ) over the next two years.
“We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine,” Støre said after arriving in Kyiv late Friday afternoon, just days after websites and major state functions were targeted in a cyberattack by a group of Russian pirates responding to Norway’s strong support for NATO expansion.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created the biggest crisis in Europe since World War II,” said Støre, a former senior diplomat and foreign minister who enjoyed good relations with Russia for many years. many years. A large majority of Norwegians now believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attacks on Ukraine and the questioning of its sovereignty have changed everything. Newspaper Dagsavis editorialized over the weekend that it also ended a long period of peace between the world’s most powerful nations.
Støre and most of his NATO allies believe Putin’s war also threatens security across Europe. Helping Ukraine repel Russian attacks and, above all, rebuilding homes, schools and other important infrastructure damaged or destroyed by Russian bombing will help more than Ukraine.
“They are fighting for their nation, but also for our democratic values,” Støre said. “We contribute to the struggle of Ukrainians for freedom.” The money will be used for humanitarian aid, reconstruction projects, weapons and operational support for Ukrainian authorities.
Støre saw some of what he called the “dramatic consequences” attacks from Russia since its invasion on February 24, stating bluntly that what he witnessed was nothing less than “hell, really”. As Norwegian and other officials were taken to suburbs outside Kyiv, including Bucha, where corpses were left on the streets, the newspaper post office noted that Støre’s first stop in Ukraine was the town of Tsjernihiv, about a three-hour drive north of Kyiv and close to the Belarusian border. As Russian soldiers unsuccessfully attempted to conquer the Ukrainian capital, Tsjernihiv was also attacked.
More than 300 residents of one of its outlying villages, Yahidne, were forced into the basement of a local school and held there for almost a month. They included infants and the elderly, and the conditions were so terrible that 10 people died. “It’s heartbreaking,” Støre said afterwards when meeting with survivors. “What happened here amounts to horrible treatment of people,” he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He said it was important to see the sites of such atrocities first hand and to hold Russia accountable.
Many now believe that Putin will continue his war for a long time, with NRK’s foreign editor Sigurd Falkenberg-Mikkelsen seeing Norway’s significant increase in support for Ukraine as a sign “we will help in the long run”.
Støre received a warm welcome in Kyiv, where Zelensky said he was grateful and called Norway a “true friend”. He is disappointed that some countries have promised aid but have not followed through, whether with humanitarian support or weapons. Støre, whose visit was kept secret for security reasons, stressed how important it is to “keep our eyes on Ukraine” also as the war drags on.
While Norway has been criticized for not taking the best care of Ukrainian refugees in Norway, where some have recently had to turn to charity programs to acquire enough food, the Støre government has firm plans for the use of money donated to Ukraine. Much of it will go to arms, with Norway and Britain already teaming up for heavy artillery donations. As well as helping to rebuild bombed-out schools, hospitals and homes, Norway also wants to help keep export routes open for Ukrainian grain and agricultural products that have provided food for 400 million people in the world. Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt stressed the importance of keeping aid resources “flexible” to better meet needs.
Huitfeldt and the Speaker of the Norwegian Parliament visited Ukraine and Zelensky earlier. It was Støre’s first trip and he clearly made an impression. “We can read and see (what’s happening in Ukraine) but it’s very important to meet the people,” Støre told NRK, who was able to join his trip. “This is happening in the middle of Europe in 2022, and no other country can ignore it. Lives were destroyed, we saw places (destroyed) that had absolutely no military value. Houses were destroyed. It tells the story of a type of war for which Russia must take responsibility. It is important that this be seen and noted so that there will ever be reparations.