As Russian troops gain ground in southern Ukraine and lay siege to major cities, Athens is continuing efforts to evacuate Greeks from Ukraine and to ensure the protection of those left behind.
With Kherson already having fallen, pressure is mounting on Odessa while Mariupol, home to a large ethnic Greek community, was left for hours without water, electricity and heating.
The operation to evacuate 82 Greeks who were trapped in Mariupol to the west of Ukraine will continue Friday. Their odyssey began on Wednesday morning. On Thursday their convoy started from Zaporizhzhia and headed west, however, due to the night traffic ban, it was deemed appropriate that the effort to cross the border with Moldova would continue Friday. According to diplomatic sources, the Nostos 3 mission headed by Ambassador Fragiskos Kostellenos is proceeding under adverse conditions, with the consulates general of Mariupol and Odessa, as well as the Crisis Management Unit of the Foreign Ministry, remaining in constant contact with Greeks left behind in Ukraine, including Greek sailors. The same sources noted the particularly important role played by the Cypriot envoy to Kyiv, Lina Themistokleous.
The Nostos operation was preceded by similar evacuations of Kyiv and Odessa a few days earlier.
Addressing the issues of the ethnic Greeks, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Thursday that Greece is making, under very difficult conditions, every possible effort to ensure their protection. During joint statements with visiting Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, he noted that the Greek community in the broader Mariupol area numbered some 150,000 people and their protection was a key government priority, which was highlighted during his visit to the region a few days before Russia’s invasion.
Dendias stressed that it is incumbent on all countries, especially those aspiring to become European Union member-states, to align themselves with the EU stance on this issue.
“We call on all countries that maintain relations with or want to become members of the EU to fully align themselves with the EU, without provisos or asterisks, in the effort to protect international law and human rights,” Dendias said.
“Greece participates in Euro-Atlantic institutions. Together with our European partners and with our NATO allies, we jointly shape a common response. We will fully implement the decisions that all we Europeans made together,” he added.