Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Tuesday that he intends to accompany a humanitarian mission to Mariupol, Ukraine that is being flattened by constant Russian shelling.
“I am requesting today in an official note sent to the Ukrainian side that it facilitate and another note to the Russian side not to hinder the sending of humanitarian aid to Mariupol. I intend to accompany this mission in person, in coordination with the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Mauer, with whom we are already in contact,” Dendias noted.
Dendias was briefed by the Greek Consul General in Mariupol, Manolis Androulakis, about the desperate plight of the civilian population which includes tens of thousands of ethnic Greeks in Mariupol.
Androulakis, who was the last remaining Western diplomat left in the city of Mariupol, arrived in Greece from Bucharest on Sunday evening.
“Mariupol will be added to the lists of international cities that have been destroyed, such as Guernica, Stalingrad, and Grozny,” Androulakis stated just after arriving in Athens.
Dendias: Greece’s priority is to protect civilians and expatriates
“Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine continues unabated. The priority of the Greek government is the protection of our expatriates, but also of the civilian population,” Dendias said.
He also announced that a coordination and reception group will be set up in Bucharest, headed by Fragiskos Kostelenos with the participation of the Ambassador to Bucharest, Sofia Grammata, Odessa’s Consul General Dimitris Dochtsis and Manolis Androulakis, who will depart soon.
Dendias stressed the need to protect the civilian population in his speech at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday and in his personal meeting with EU High Representative Josep Borrell, whom he asked to make public statements about Mariupol.
“Greece will continue to be present in the region. In an area where the Greek element has been established for centuries,” Dendias said, and stressed that “the first step, when things return to normal, will be the reconstruction of the maternity hospital of Mariupol.”
He added that Greece will coordinate with the EU to facilitate the return to normalcy of the ethnic Greek community after the war.
Ukraine rejects Russia’s ultimatum to surrender Mariupol
On Monday, Ukraine rejected Russian calls to surrender Mariupol, where residents are besieged with little food, water, and power.
Ukraine’s government said it would not accept Russian conditions that its forces lay down their arms in exchange for safe passage out of the city and humanitarian corridors to be opened.
Mariupol has suffered some of the heaviest bombardments since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Many of its 400,000 residents remain trapped as fighting rages on the streets around them.
Related: History of the Greeks in Ukraine: Staying Silent We Betray Our Heritage