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Zelensky Meets Mitsotakis in Athens During Gathering of Balkan Leaders

Mitsotakis and Zelensky
Mitsotakis and Zelensky met on Monday in Athens. Credit: Greek Prime Minister’s Office

On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky flew in secrecy to Greece where he met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the historic Maximos Mansion.

Rumors of Zelensky’s visit to Greece had been swirling in the days leading up to an informal summit organized in Athens for leaders in the Balkans. Prominent political figures from across the Balkans and the European Union will dine together later this evening in Athens.

The informal diplomatic event has been interpreted as an opportunity for Athens to cement its position as a regional leader and pillar of stability in the Balkans. The Greek Prime Minister will have the opportunity to discuss important issues with the leaders of several important neighboring countries, but it is the meeting between Mitsotakis and Zelensky that has garnered the most attention amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Zelenksy and Mitsotakis speak at press conference

After meeting privately, Mitsotakis and Zelensky appeared together to issue statements during a press conference at 8 pm local time. The Greek PM opened the proceedings, stating that the resistance of Ukraine was an “inspiration to all democratic citizens of the planet.”

Mitsotakis continued, saying that “there is no way we will ever accept an attempt to falsify the border with the use of military force. We will never recognize the illegal annexation of areas of Ukraine by the use of weapons by Russia.”

Less than a week after an incident in Cyprus that involved an attack against UN peacekeepers by personnel from occupied Cyprus, Mitsotakis was also keen to stress parallels between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and security issues in Greece’s geostrategic backyard.

“It is a position that is aligned with the interests of our country, which has faced similar situations in the past,” said Mitsotakis. “We are against every illegal occupier. Something similar is also happening in Cyprus. We do not forget the crimes against Mariupol, a city with Greek blood…[as] well as in Odessa, Kyiv, and other areas that receive raids, with thousands of civilians being targeted. We condemn the war crimes that must be punished by International justice.”

The Greek PM closed his statement by affirming Greece’s commitment to Ukraine’s “European course” and addressed his Ukrainian counterpart saying “Volodymyr, welcome to Athens and I hope this close cooperation will continue with a free and peaceful Ukraine soon.”

Zelensky thanked the Greek Prime Minister, adding that “it is a great honor to be with you today to give a new impetus to our relations and to make our cooperation even better for the people of Ukraine and Greece.”

The Ukrainian leader explained how during a private meeting with Mitsotakis, he had briefed the Greek PM on the current situation in Ukraine. He stressed Ukraine’s urgent need for continued military support, noting that Greek military aviators could play an important role in training Ukrainian personnel to master the F-16 fighter jet.

Joint Declaration of Greece and Ukraine

A “Joint Declaration of the Hellenic Republic and Ukraine on the Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine” was also issued on Monday, coinciding with Zelensky’s meeting with Mitsotakis.

The declaration reaffirmed the stances of both countries vis a vis the Russian invasion of Ukraine and European and NATO security frameworks.

Notably, it was affirmed that Greece “will continue to support [NATO’s] strong and effective political and material support for Ukraine aimed at ensuring the ability of Ukraine to effectively defend its territory on land, at sea and in the air.”

It was also declared that “Ukraine highly appreciates all valuable practical assistance being provided by the Hellenic Republic and the people of the Hellenic Republic in order to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities.”

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