In a week when the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) was due to meet for its 2020 Spring Session in Kyiv, Ukraine, the Assembly President Attila Mesterhazy (Hungary) took the opportunity to remotely meet members of the Ukrainian delegation to the NATO PA, led by delegation Head Yehor Cherniev. Ojars Eriks Kalnins (Latvia), NATO PA Co-Chair of the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council (UNIC), also participated in the meeting.
“Unfortunately, we cannot meet in person this week. But it is extremely important to me to exchange views with the Ukrainian delegation on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and discuss other urgent matters, chief among them the situation in Donbas, Russia’s ongoing destabilisation, and NATO-Ukraine cooperation,” underlined President Mesterhazy.
“We are convinced that international solidarity and support for each other is the most efficient way to overcome the COVID-19 crisis, counter its socio-economic consequences, and strengthen our country’s resilience. We would like to express full solidarity with all nations fighting the pandemic,” Mr Cherniev told his Assembly colleagues.
The President and the Ukrainian members discussed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in Ukraine, including assistance between NATO and Ukraine in response, how the work of parliaments has been affected, and how Allies and Ukraine are countering disinformation campaigns which have intensified during the crisis.
When discussing disinformation, Mr Cherniev stressed that “the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe sees no administrative borders. Thus, we need to enhance our cooperation in order to strengthen information stability, which relates not only to COVID-19, but also to topical issues of Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
Naturally, the situation in Crimea and the Donbas was front and centre throughout the discussion. Ukrainian members updated the President on Russia’s ongoing aggression and the security, political, and health situation in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
“Russia considers the pandemic crisis as an opportunity to lift sanctions, imposed as response on its aggression against Ukraine. But, keeping sanctions in place along with political pressure on Russia is an important tool to push the Russian leadership to implement the Minsk arrangements, to stop Russian aggression in Donbas, and start de-occupation of Crimea,” argued Mr Cherniev.
“On numerous occasions, the Assembly has voiced its firm support for Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity and by firmly condemning Russia’s illegal and illegitimate occupation of Crimea and deliberate destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine. I did so again today,” said President Mesterhazy.
The members discussed recent political developments in Ukraine as well, in particular the ongoing reform processes.
“The Assembly continues its unwavering support of the comprehensive reform processes in Ukraine. These are key to achieving Ukraine’s objectives of European and Euro Atlantic integration,” underlined President Mesterhazy.
The meeting also offered an opportunity to take stock of NATO-Ukraine relations and the progress in implementing the Comprehensive Assistance Package.
“I am looking forward to the day when the situation will allow our citizens to safely resume their travels, people-to-people contacts, and to hold a NATO PA session in Kyiv,” concluded Mr Cherniev.
The Ukrainian parliament – the Verkhovna Rada – has long been a special partner for the NATO PA, not least through the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council (UNIC) which supports Ukraine on its path of reform and NATO integration.
In early April, the Ukrainian hosts and President Mesterhazy agreed to postpone the Spring Session in Kyiv. The Assembly and the Ukrainian delegation are working closely together to find alternative dates for a session in Ukraine.