PM Rutte and FM Hoekstra headed to Kyiv to discuss Russian threat, MH17
Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra will travel to Kyiv on Tuesday to talk with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The meeting had been scheduled for some time but has been cast in a different light due to the rising tension between Ukraine and Russia, the Prime Minister said on Friday. The West fears a Russian invasion of Ukraine although both countries say it will not go so fast.
The situation in Ukraine has been very tense since a conflict over the country's possible NATO membership. Russia is vehemently against this and believes that the alliance is asserting itself too much on Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, the European Union and the United States, among others, are very concerned about a large number of Russian military personnel, including weapons, that have gathered along the borders of Ukraine. Rutte called the situation "very serious."
Ukraine has asked for military resources and money to defend itself against a possible attack. The country is also concerned about cyberattacks from Russia. The Netherlands already indicated that it is prepared to supply weapons with which Ukraine can defend itself. It is not yet clear what exactly that contribution will look like. Sources told newspaper AD that a Defense inventory shows the Netherlands will send helmets, shard vests, and metal detectors to detect mines to Ukraine. The sources couldn't say whether there are any weapons on the list.
Rutte wants to show with this visit that the West is "visibly involved," but he said that he does not expect he will make any commitments during his visit this week.
Concerns about the security situation in Ukraine increased further this past week. The British and American governments already recalled the relatives of embassy staff. The Netherlands does not yet see cause to evacuate people. But embassy employees who feel unsafe may of course leave the country, Hoekstra previously said.
Over the past days, the Cabinet had regular contact with UN Secretary-General António Guterres and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, among others. They're also scheduled to meet with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and representatives from the business community. There are also visits in the context of MH17, including a visit to the Joint Investigation Team.
After the consultations in Ukraine, Rutte and Hoekstra will travel to neighboring Moldova on Wednesday. There they meet with President Maia Sandu and Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilița. There too, the increased tensions between Ukraine and Russia are on the agenda, as are "our economic cooperation, energy, strengthening the rule of law", Rutte announced.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times