Wed. Jun 29th, 2022

1. Analysis of the political and military situation

1.1        Russia has launched a massive military attack on Ukraine.

– France condemns the military invasion launched by Russia on Ukraine in the strongest possible terms. It also condemns the use of Belarusian territory, authorized by Lukashenko’s regime, to conduct this aggression against a sovereign country. This invasion constitutes a brutal violation of international law. France is demanding that Russia immediately cease its military operations and that a total, unconditional ceasefire is established.

– The strategic goals of the Russian operation were explicitly declared by President Putin on 23 February. They are threefold. Firstly, what Putin refers to as the “liberation” of the Donbas region, meaning taking military control of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts by force. Secondly, a “demilitarization” goal, as he put it, which implies the destruction of Ukrainian military power. And finally, a “denazification” phase, to use his terms again, meaning it is likely that he is targeting the very structures of Ukrainian power.

– This act of war is a turning point in the history of Europe and of our country. It will have profound, lasting consequences on our lives. It will have consequences for the geopolitics of our continent and we will respond.

– It is not a European war, but it seriously calls into question the international order. This is what the highest court of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, said in its ruling on 16 March 2022, ordering Russia to “immediately suspend” its military operations in Ukraine, a decision which is legally binding.

1.2 The Russian offensive has not produced the results expected by Vladimir Putin

– After almost a month of the Russian offensive, and despite Russia amassing more than 150,000 troops at Ukraine’s borders – the equivalent of almost all of its active duty land forces – no major Ukrainian city has fallen.

– Difficulties are being observed in the Russian military chain, especially of a logistical nature, which have hampered its progress. Russian losses are high. The Russian population is not fully supportive of the war, including among conscripts, with Vladimir Putin being forced to recognize their engagement in the field, after first denying it.

– There is strong Ukrainian resistance, the State and the armed forces are functioning, with a president in command, and the population does not accept the Russian offensive. The European Union has committed to providing €1 billion in armaments to Ukraine. In Mariupol, which has been 80% destroyed by Russian bombardment, every neighbourhood is defended. It is a real-life illustration that Russian propaganda is baseless.

– The sanctions are dealing a very severe blow to the Russian economy and its ability to support the war effort. As indicated by the rating agencies, Russia is on the cusp of defaulting on its sovereign debt payments. The rouble has fallen by 40%, and the Moscow Exchange hasn’t reopened since the sanctions package. Its aviation and defence industries can no longer source parts or semiconductors. The bulk of its income has been hit by sanctions on the energy sector (refineries, €24 billion in income).

– Not all Russians support this war, in principle and because of the economic consequences that it forces them to suffer. There has been a series of protests in Russia. Russia is forced to resort to brutal repression (tens of thousands of Russians arrested) and unprecedented propaganda efforts (blocking of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, 15-year prison sentence for using the word “war”).

– Another remarkable aspect since the beginning of the crisis is the strengthened unity of Europeans and the unity of the allies: while Vladimir Putin is opposed to NATO and wants to divide us, never before has he succeeded so well in bringing together NATO members and EU Member States, and in fortifying the transatlantic relationship.

1.3 Russia is refusing negotiations and opting for all-out war

– In this context, Vladimir Putin is ignoring calls for negotiations and ceasefire issued by the European Union, President Erdoğan, President Xi Jinping (telephone conversation with President Macron) and the vast majority of the UN General Assembly members, whereas President Zelenskyy has been open to these direct negotiations and ready to discuss security guarantees constructively (“neutrality” of Ukraine).

– Faced with the difficulties encountered on the ground, Vladimir Putin has clearly opted for the worst choice: the Russian forces have adopted a siege approach and are surrounding cities, bombing them indiscriminately, and depriving them of electricity, water and communications. There have been ominous precedents in Aleppo and Grozny. Civilian casualties are rising: the OHCHR counts 2,421 civilian victims on 20 March, with 925 dead and 1,496 wounded. Hospitals and civilian facilities are being targeted (maternity hospital and theatre in Mariupol), causing Ukrainians to flee (a quarter of Ukrainians have left their homes – 10 million on 21 March, according to the UNHCR).

– The “humanitarian corridors” are a cynical manipulation of international humanitarian law by Russia. We are seeing a repeat of the tactics implemented in Grozny in Chechnya, and Aleppo in Syria: Moscow bombs, Moscow pretends that there are humanitarian corridors, Moscow then accuses the opponents of not respecting the humanitarian corridor, Moscow bombs again and claims that its opponents have broken the ceasefire.

– We are asking for an immediate ceasefire and free, unobstructed access for humanitarian workers. That is the aim of our diplomatic efforts and the purpose of the resolution presented to the UN General Assembly.

1.4 Russia’s war is also an information war

– We condemn the strategy of disinformation and confusion carried out by the Russian authorities, who aim to falsely justify unlawful actions and accuse the other party of actions that they are about to perpetrate. This preventive doublespeak is part of Russian warfare, and has been abundantly practised on other theatres.

There has not been a genocide in the Donbas. The 14,000 deaths referred to by President Putin are victims on both sides of the conflict in the Donbas since 2014, which was triggered by the separatist insurgency in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions that Moscow supported.

NATO is not the aggressor. President Macron stated it outright to President Putin: Europeans, with their allies and partners, in particular the United States, are united in a clear request to comply with the key principles underpinning the European security order. These principles, which stem from the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, then signed by the USSR, and the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, signed in 1990, are the non-negotiable cornerstones of all security and stability initiatives in Europe. President Macron reiterated to Vladimir Putin during his trip to Moscow, before the offensive, that it is not NATO that has been undermining these principles for two decades.

Ukraine does not have nuclear military capabilities. When the USSR was dissolved, Ukraine was denuclearized. The Budapest Memorandum, signed by Ukraine and Russia in 1994, enshrines Russian respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and security in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons and ratifying the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Ukraine has respected its commitments, as acknowledged by the IAEA.

Ukraine does not have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons. The OPCW has never classified Ukraine as a chemical weapons state, unlike Russia. After supporting the Syrian regime in the use of chemical weapons against its own population, Russia used these weapons in its attempts to assassinate Sergei Skripal in 2018 and Aleksei Navalny in 2020, undermining the principle of prohibition enshrined in the CWC Convention, which is practically universal (193 States Parties). In terms of biological weapons, Russia is falsely accusing Ukraine of developing biological weapons with the help of the United States, grossly misrepresenting the aim of the US Department of Defense Biological Threat Reduction Program, which is to strengthen epidemiological monitoring capacities. In the context of an unlawful armed aggression against a sovereign State, the use of disinformation on biological or chemical weapons is irresponsible, and generates concerns of a Russian provocation.

– In this war, journalists are being targeted. Following the death of French-Irish journalist Pierre Zakrezewski and four other journalists, we recalled the obligation on armed forces to protect journalists, in line with international humanitarian law, and condemned in the strongest terms any action that targets them.

1.5 Threats to the safety and security of civil nuclear facilities in Ukraine

– Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors and the Chernobyl sarcophagus. These civil facilities are vulnerable in the context of the war. We have seen that at the Zaporizhzhia plant and Chernobyl sarcophagus. We have firmly condemned all attacks on the integrity of Ukrainian civil nuclear facilities perpetrated by Russian forces in their military aggression against Ukraine. It is essential to guarantee their security and safety.

– Russia must immediately cease its illegal and dangerous military actions so that the Ukrainian authorities can regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. Russia must also grant free, regular and unhindered access to the staff at such facilities to ensure that they can operate safely. We are fully supporting the IAEA initiatives, using all our communication channels with the two belligerents in order to reach a framework agreement, in line with Ukrainian sovereignty.

– So far, no degradation in the safety and security of Ukrainian civil nuclear facilities has been observed. But this is a risk which must be reduced.

1.6 Threat of nuclear escalation

Nuclear rhetoric is completely inappropriate, irresponsible and disproportionate (03/03/2022 interview with Minister Le Drian on France 2 television).

It was a threat made by V. Putin on 24 February when he announced the initial operations; it is a useless, disproportionate threat; a threat of escalation which makes no sense and runs counter to the very public commitments made by Russia in early 2022 to measure major strategic risks. I can sense a feeling of concern amid all this agitation. (01/03/2022).

1.7 We are not at war with Russia.

– We are not at war with Russia. Europe is not at war with Russia. This is a war between Russia and Belarus, the aggressors, and Ukraine, which is under attack. We do not want a war with Russia.

– But we are partners of Ukraine, we are providing it with all the support we can, including by delivering defensive equipment to Ukraine – and I will not give you any more details. International law is crystal clear in this regard: providing arms alone does not make Europe party to a conflict.

Neither is NATO at war. NATO is a defensive alliance under which an attack on one member State is deemed to be an attack on all, who act in solidarity.

– With regard to any French volunteer fighters, Ukraine is a warzone and a red-listed country in terms of travel advice. We strongly advise against all travel to Ukraine.

1.8. This conflict is not a European war, but it seriously calls into question the international order

– It is not a European war, but it seriously calls into question the international order. This is what the highest court of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, said in its ruling on 16 March 2022, ordering Russia to “immediately suspend” its military operations in Ukraine, a decision which is legally binding and which Russia has since violated, showing contempt for the UN body.

– Russia is undermining the principle of sovereignty, which it is explicitly denying with regard to the sovereignty of Ukraine, as well as the inviolability of borders. This attack by a permanent member of the Security Council not only threatens the balance of Europe, but also the sanctity of the borders of any State potentially threatened by another. Russia had already flouted these principles in 2014 via the illegal and unrecognized annexation of Crimea.

– Furthermore, Russia is violating these founding principles of the international order based on a revisionist view of history, in a sort of “neo-colonization” of Ukraine which it is claiming as its own territory. This stance, which negates the very principle of sovereignty, creates a dangerous precedent for land claims based on a biased reading of history and potentially endangers the stability of entire regions.

– Russia is making irresponsible allegations about the use of weapons of mass destruction which could be construed as threats to use such weapons. The risk posed by these military activities to Ukrainian civil nuclear facilities goes far beyond Europe.

– The Russian offensive is very seriously increasing the threat to world food security by blocking 90% of Ukrainian cereal exports. The risk to world food security and agricultural markets, including possible food shortages, is very real. They could have a major impact on countries which heavily depend on Ukraine for agricultural imports, particularly in Africa. According to the FAO, international food prices could increase by between 8% and 22% compared to their already-high baseline levels.

2. Diplomatic initiatives and isolation of Russia

2.1. In the face of this crisis, the European Union is showing unprecedented unity and firmness

– We always took the possibility of a large-scale offensive seriously, as is shown by our intensive diplomatic work since the autumn, but also by the massive economic sanctions we prepared and how quickly we adopted them.

– As a reminder, on 12 November 2021, Jean-Yves Le Drian indicated to S. Lavrov and S. Shoigu that any violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity would be sanctioned with drastic and strategic consequences for Russia.

– The European Union has never responded to a crisis with such strength and agility. Within 48 hours, the 27 EU Member States adopted an extensive package of sanctions against Russia, a systemic actor and permanent member of the UN Security Council; since then, they have constantly increased these sanctions with major decisions on SWIFT, Nord Stream 2, and against V. Putin himself.

– With regard to defence, since 24 February the EU has shattered a series of taboos: for the first time, the 27 Member States financed a European lethal defensive weapons budget worth a total of €1 billion for Ukraine. Sweden has called into question its principle of neutrality, Germany has increased its defence budget to €100 billion and Denmark is preparing a referendum on the issue. The Strategic Compass has been approved and following the Versailles Summit on 10-11 March, the Commission is expected to propose significant reinvestment in defence industries and with a view to European energy independence.

2.3 French diplomatic action

– Our action is aimed at securing an immediate ceasefire from Russia. That is the goal of our sanctions and diplomatic isolation policy with regard to Russia, to increase the price of war and influence President Putin’s choices. That is the purpose of our assistance to Ukraine, particularly our military assistance. That is why diplomatic channels and intense discussions with the belligerents remain ongoing: the President of the French Republic has spoken with President V. Putin (14 calls since 6 March) and President Zelenskyy (22 calls or meetings since 10 December), as well as with President A. Lukashenko, President Xi, President Erdoğan, Prime Minister N. Bennett and our European partners and allies. Finally, that is the goal of our work in multilateral bodies, with a draft resolution at the UNSC aimed at achieving a ceasefire and free and unhindered humanitarian access.

– The aim is also to:

* Avoid civil nuclear disasters. Ukraine is a major civil nuclear country, with four active plants and one, Chernobyl, which we know well and which remains very sensitive. We support the efforts of Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to establish the safeguards necessary for the safety and security of nuclear facilities.

* Conduct humanitarian operations and of course evacuate our compatriots but also all Ukrainian or foreign men and women from conflict zones and bring them to the safety of border countries or elsewhere.

* Facilitate ongoing discussions between Russia and Ukraine. PR / LCI / 7 March 2022

2.4 Diplomatic isolation strategy: Russia ostracized from the community of nations

– It is now clear to everyone that Russia is alone in its aggression against Ukraine. V. Putin’s war has ostracized it from the community of nations.

– At the Security Council, Russia is isolated and only has its right of veto to try to protect itself. China did not support the Russian offensive, as it did not join Russia’s veto.

– At the United Nations General Assembly, Russia is isolated and only has countries like North Korea, Belarus, Eritrea and Syria to condone its violations of international law. 141 countries have condemned Russia’s war of choice.

– When a Russian representative takes the floor at a multilateral forum, the vast majority of delegates from all other countries rise and leave the room. We saw this in Geneva a few days ago. Because statements from Russia, with its lies and aggression, are now worthless. And the entire world knows it.

2.5 Sanctions: objectives and effects

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union swiftly and proportionately adopted unprecedented sanctions on Russia and its leaders.

OBJECTIVES OF THE SANCTIONS

The sanctions are part of an approach to make the cost of the war unbearable for the Russians. The price of the war must be too high to pay, and should lead to a ceasefire (06/03/2022 Minister’s interview on France 2).

The sanctions are based on specific criteria and solid legal evidence. Their targeted nature and the case-by-case assessment of designations help keep unintended consequences to a minimum, including negative humanitarian impacts.

NATURE OF SANCTIONS (on 21 March)

Sanctions targeting Russia

Individual sanctions targeting 900 Russian citizens associated with the invasion and close to those in power: prominent political figures, military officials, oligarchs in key sectors of the Russian economy (agriculture, iron and steel industry, telecommunications, etc.), media outlets that participate in the war propaganda effort, the 426 members of the Duma who supported the attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty, and all the members of the Russian Security Council, including Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov.

  • These sanctions involve asset freezing and a ban on entering the territory of the European Union.
  • The assets of Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov have been frozen in the EU.
  • New sanctions regime criteria now enable any person with close links to the Kremlin to be designated.

Sectoral sanctions across different areas have been added to these sanctions:

  • Financial sanctions are targeting 70% of the Russian banking system.
    • Russian central bank: ban on transactions involving the management of its reserves and assets
    • The exclusion of seven Russian banks from SWIFT, the world’s dominant financial messaging system
    • Full asset freeze and financing ban on three Russian banks
    • The government and key state-owned companies, specifically in the area of defence, will no longer be able to refinance in EU capital markets
    • Ban on the targeted Russian elite from making deposits to EU banks
    • Ban on the sale, supply, transfer and export of euro banknotes to Russia
    • Sanctions on cryptocurrencies preventing a circumvention of sanctions
    • Full prohibition of any financial transactions with certain Russian state-owned entities
    • Ban on the provision of credit rating services to any Russian person or entity
  • Regarding media outlets and the fight against disinformation, ban on broadcasting any content produced by RT and Sputnik in the EU.

RT and Sputnik are war propaganda bodies and should be treated as such (01/03/2022, Minister’s statement in Lodz).

  • In the transport sector:
  • Closure of EU airspace to all Russian airlines
    • Ban on sales and exports to Russia of goods and technologies linked to the aviation and aerospace industries
    • Ban on the provision of any related repair, maintenance or financial services
    • Sanctions targeting the maritime sector
  • In the energy sector:
    • Ban on exports of specific refining technologies, adding to the existing oil equipment ban from 2014
    • Ban on new investmentin the Russian energy sector (refineries)
    • Introduction of comprehensive export restrictions on equipment, technology and services for the energy sector.
  • In the trade sector:
    • Additional restrictions on the export of goods and technologies contributing to the defence sector
    • Introduction of new import restrictions on iron and steel and luxury goods.
  • Regarding access to national territory:
    • Visa restrictions
    • Holders of diplomatic passports and service passports, as well as corporate representatives, will no longer enjoy privileged access to the EU

Sanctions targeting Russia

Sectoral sanctions across different areas have been added to these sanctions:

  • Financial sanctions:
    • Exclusion of three Belarusian banks from SWIFT,
    • Belarusian central bank: ban on transactions involving the management of its reserves and assets

EFFECTS OF THE SANCTIONS

The sanctions have entered into force and the first effects are being felt:

  • Massive drop in the rouble (down 40% on the first Monday of sanctions);
  • Moscow stock market closed since sanctions imposed;
  • Downgrade by rating agencies: on 9 March, Fitch indicated that Russia risked payment default;
  • Departure of a large number of multinational firms;
  • First seizures of oligarchs’ assets by the French Ministry of the Economy, Finance and the Recovery: Bruno Le Maire indicated on 20 March that €815 million in property has been seized in France.

PROSPECTS OF NEW SANCTIONS

– The Quint leaders (France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States) have reiterated their determination to maintain pressure on Russia to obtain a ceasefire (21 March 2022, videoconference of the Quint Heads of State and Government). On the same evening, the Minister spoke with Tony Blinken; they agreed on the need to strengthen sanctions.

– Embargo on Russian natural and oil announced by the United States: the United States is not dependent on Russian gas and oil, unlike its European partners.

EU 40% dependent on Russian natural gas Germany 60% dependent Baltic countries and Poland 100% dependent France less than 20% dependent

– We have already taken initial measures targeting the oil sector (restriction on the export of goods and technologies and related services). We should carefully analyse the impact of new measures and draw them up together as Europeans with our main partners, oil producers and consumers, if we want to be effective.

– In Versailles, the 27 European Member States announced that they would study all the means at their disposal to swiftly and structurally reduce their dependence on Russian gas and oil. The Commission was asked to put forward proposals to this end:

– Over the short term, for winter 2022, we must rid ourselves of our dependence on Russian gas by diversifying our sources for supply, replenishing our stocks, and regulating prices. That is why this week the Commission presented guidance for prices under exceptional circumstances and the possibility of a temporary framework for state aid in order to help struggling companies and thereby manage prices.

– By mid-May, we will make more detailed proposals for alternatives to Russian gas and oil by 2027 presenting national alternatives. By mid-May, the Commission will present the options for optimizing the design of the electricity market so that it better supports the green transition.

2.6 Combating impunity

– France is deeply concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the continuing Russian strikes on Ukraine’s civilian population and cities. It is important that these violations of humanitarian law, which may constitute war crimes, do not go unpunished and can be documented, especially within the framework of negotiations that the International Criminal Court has recently begun.

– That is why 39 States, including all EU Member States and France, referred Ukraine’s current situation to the International Criminal Court. This is a first in diplomatic history. We welcome the fact that the ICC Prosecutor has announced the launch of an investigation.

– France is making all of the necessary coordination efforts to support the investigations launched at national and international level, in collaboration with Eurojust, the European judicial investigation agency, and the Genocide Network, which coordinates action of EU judicial authorities and all EU partners in addition to its Member States.

– France commends the important order issued by the International Court of Justice on 16 March 2022 on the war in Ukraine. This decision orders Russia to suspend the military operations that it commenced on 24 February 2022, whose stated pretexts are to prevent and punish an alleged genocide in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in Ukraine. This order is a response to the requests Ukraine submitted to the Court on 27 February in addition to the Request it filed against Russia, on the basis of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which Ukraine and Russia are party. Russia, like all UN members, has an obligation to comply with the Court’s decision. The order, issued urgently, is the first stage in longer judicial proceedings in which the Court will examine the serious violations of international law committed by Russia on the merits. As the Statute of the International Court of Justice authorizes, France stands ready to intervene in these proceedings, in support of Ukraine, because this case also concerns our fundamental interests when it comes to full compliance with international law.

– Lastly, following the death of the first French national Pierre Zakrzewski, the case, which may constitute a war crime, was referred to France’s Anti-terrorist Prosecutor.

3. Solidarity with our allies and with Ukraine

3.1 France and Europe stand in solidarity with Ukraine

BILATERAL AID
  1. Civilian aid

Faced with the humanitarian situation in Ukraine caused by Russia’s invasion of the country and at request of the Ukrainian authorities, France has decided to mobilize a financial package of €100 million to provide a response for the population affected by the conflict.

In addition to financial support to NGOs and multilateral organizations, our assistance takes the form of emergency humanitarian aid

  • An initial 33 tons of aid sent by four trucks from France arrived in Poland on Sunday evening and was delivered to the Ukrainian authorities yesterday. The aid comprised material destined to shelter displaced persons (including, 500 family tents, 2,300 blankets, 1,000 hygiene kits, 2,000 floor mats, 300 sleeping bags).
  • A second shipment of 8 tons of emergency medical material was sent to Poland on Tuesday, 1 March by two civil security planes and was delivered to Ukrainian authorities. The shipment is a “mobile medical station”, comprising a batch of medical products and hospital equipment to reinforce emergency structures, able to treat up to 500 war wounded. The shipment also includes a batch of 36 trunks of medical products, intended particularly for paediatric and general medicine cases.
  • Other aid is currently under review
  • A shipment was sent to Moldova consisting of 35 tons of material to care for 2,000 to 3,000 displaced persons.

In addition to this direct material assistance, the MEAE has activated two funds, allowing French local governments and businesses to contribute humanitarian aid for Ukrainians

  • the Territorial Communities External Action Fund (FACECO), coordinates local initiatives and the exceptional movement of solidarity with Ukrainians. Thus, the regions that so wish, regardless of their size, can provide financial contributions. The contributions, pooled in a fund managed by the specialized teams of the Crisis and Support Centre at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, will enable the financing of emergency humanitarian operations that meet the highest needs of the conflict victims. During the meeting held with the Minister on 8 March, French local governments committed to providing an initial contribution of €1.5 million.
  • The Business Solidarity Fund allows any willing business to contribute financially to emergency actions coordinated by specialized teams at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs’ Crisis and Support Centre. These contributions will help fund the purchase and shipment of emergency humanitarian goods to meet the urgent needs of the victims of the conflict      (03/03/2022 PP 3 March 2022)
  • Military Defence Aid

– European countries are providing defence equipment to Ukraine. In an unprecedented decision, the European Union activated the European Peace Facility and supplemented it with €500 million to support the actions of the Member States. It is a significant step forward.

– As for France, we are supporting Ukraine through military means and equipment. No comment will be made on the nature of this aid, as it is classified information.

  • Issue of the no-fly zone

It is important to understand what this concept entails. It involves banning aircraft from flying over Ukraine. There is only one way to do this: by using anti-aircraft capabilities and fighter aircraft in Ukrainian territory and air space. This means through military capabilities.

If this decision were to be taken, it would mean that those involved would find themselves in a situation of war against Russia. I will say it again: we are not at war with Russia.

EUROPEAN AID

– Civilian aid: the Ukrainian authorities have called on the EU Civilian Protection Mechanism, which provides, as measures of prevention in this case, a certain quantity of health equipment, protective suits, tents, kits, etc. France was one of the first five European countries that answered the call, to protect not only the French community, but also Ukraine, with which it stands in full solidarity and will increasingly continue to do so.

– The European Union agreed to an assistance package of €500 million in emergency aid in support of the Ukrainian population. Financial assistance of €1.2 billion was already approved in the beginning of February, including €300 million financed by France.

3.2 Welcoming Ukrainian refugees

– As of 22 March, 10 million Ukrainians have had to leave their homes. 3.4 million are already in the European Union.

– Europeans are rallying to welcome Ukrainians and Ukrainian residents forced to flee. Under the French Presidency of the EU, we have jointly decided to activate the Temporary Protection Directive for the first time in our history. It will allow all Ukrainians and Ukrainian residents who are fleeing their country to be welcomed on the territories of the 27 Member States and to benefit from immediate protection, which can now be renewed to last up to three years. Through the Directive, we can help them to remain in the EU by providing them with services and material assistance as they wait to return to their country.

– As of 10 March 2022, 7,000 Ukrainians have arrived in France since 25 February. The President of the French Republic indicated that France was preparing to welcome 100,000 Ukrainians.

– France is rallying to welcome the Ukrainian men and women fleeing the war, both those fighting for freedom and those that are simply civilians of a country at war. It is our duty. Our founding principles and values bind us to do so (07/03/2022, PR interview by LCI).

Response to accusations of discrimination

– The States bordering Ukraine have mobilized to welcome the refugees: they do not make any distinction based on the nationality of the persons fleeing the conflict. This is the case in Poland, which is facing the largest number of arrivals, and in other countries.

– Based on the accurate counting of third-country nationals forced to flee Ukraine in the face of Russia’s aggression, according to the International Organization for Migration [Ed: Tweet by the IOM on 8 March 2022, 10:20], 103 000 third-country nationals were forced to flee towards the countries neighbouring Ukraine and have been welcomed in Europe.

– On 27 February, Commissioner Johansson expressed the EU’s solidarity [during a press conference at the close of an extraordinary JHA]: “All the persons fleeing the war must be welcome in Europe” In the case of “third-country nationals, especially students, we are ready to help them return to their countries”. She reiterated that those fleeing the war can also lodge an asylum application in a Member State. This position was reaffirmed in the Commission’s communication on solidarity in favour of refugees from Ukraine published on 8 March (“We will remain true to our values and will respectfully and humanely welcome all persons fleeing Russian aggression”; “All those fleeing the war are welcome in Europe”)

3. Ukraine’s application to join the European Union

– The priority is to end the war started by Russia. And the EU’s priority is to support Ukraine in any way possible

– Ukraine is a member of the European family. Its staunch defence for its freedom and for our values is the clearest demonstration of this, and we already have a very close relationship Ukraine, a partner of the European Union.

– The matter of Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership is a discussion that we are conducting under France’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and a discussion we must have as 27 countries, at the highest level, in a spirit of unity and responsibility.

– It is also an aspect of discussions on the European Union’s future more generally.

3.4 Strengthening NATO’s deterrence and defence posture and solidarity with the allies of the eastern flank

– Europeans must take action to ensure their own security. They are doing so by speeding up progress on their future Strategic Compass, which must incorporate this new geopolitical reality.

– They are also doing so by deploying resources to assure the Alliance’s member states, as the NATO summit held on 25 February confirmed.

– Our firm resolve is expressed through our full involvement in NATO’s deterrence and defence posture in support of our eastern allies. France is fully playing its part, and on 25 February the President of the French Republic confirmed the reinforcement of its role:

  • France plays a key role in NATO’s rapid response forces, having assumed command of the air component of the NATO Response Force (NRF) and the land component of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) for this year.
  • We are taking in part in reassurance measures, in keeping with our commitment to supporting the Allies most exposed. This is notably the case for the enhanced Forward Presence troops stationed in Estonia and Lithuania under British and German command, respectively. This year, our forces have been deployed to Estonia. The President announced that our presence would be reinforced by 200 troops.
  • We are contributing to Air Policing missions. The Baltic States rely on Allies’ air capabilities to secure their airspace. The President announced that we would take part in air defence patrols over Poland. Four Mirage 2000-5 aircraft and around 100 aviators will be deployed to Estonia.
  • Lastly, France offered to take the lead on enhanced forward presence operations in Romania, in application of the decisions made at the last NATO ministerial meeting. The President of France confirmed the accelerated deployment of the VJTF/NRF “spearhead” force composed of 500 troops.

In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Allies made two decisions on 24 February:

– Firstly, the invocation of Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which provides for consultations between the Parties whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened. France joined the European Allies in calling for the article to be invoked, as this situation concerns the security of Europe as a whole.

– Furthermore, five graduated response plans covering the entire eastern flank were activated, which entails a transfer of authority to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), with Allies committing a number of military units for one year on a rotational basis, to ensure the Alliance’s deterrence and defence posture on its eastern flank. NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), armed and led by France, was activated by SACEUR and units will be deployed to allied territories. This is unprecedented in the history of the Alliance.

– This is also a recognition that the reappraisal of strategic balances in Europe cannot remain without consequence on the commitments made with regard to Russia in a different context. Russia’s violation of its commitments under the NATO-Russia Founding Act, signed in 1997, will inevitably lead the Allies to re-examine theirs.

We will remain vigilant with regard to the countries neighbouring Ukraine that may also be placed in difficulty tomorrow by the brutality of Vladimir Putin’s actions.

3.5 Possibility of Sweden and Finland joining NATO

Applying for NATO membership is a national choice. To our knowledge, no request has been made by these countries to join NATO at this time. These countries have close relations with NATO and have activated mechanisms to enhance their interactions with the Alliance in light of the war. (01/03/2022)

4. Global Food Security

4.1 The risk of a major food crisis posed by the Russian offensive

– Russia’s war in Ukraine is leading to serious disruptions to world food security and the risk of a global food crisis that could be severe.

– Ukraine’s export capacities have been reduced by 90% due to Russian naval forces blocking Ukrainian ports and the ongoing offensive throughout the country. Moreover, the war is causing long-term damage to Ukrainian production capacity, both directly (through the destruction of equipment) and indirectly (workforce, fuel and fertilizer shortages).

– Russia’s war could cause another 13 million people to be affected by the global food crisis, in addition to the 120 million already impacted due to COVID-19. African countries will be most affected, 18 of which depend on Ukraine for over 50% of their grain. The international community’s ability to provide aid is also directly affected by the war, with the WFP until now sourcing 50% of its supply on the Ukrainian market. Russia has also halted its cereal exports, risking to directly aggravate the crisis.

4.2 France and Europe mobilize in support of global food security

France is taking action to ensure global food security as well as to support the security and stability of the regions concerned. France’s food aid programme already benefits many of the countries likely to be affected by the consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine, in terms of food security. Africa receives over 69% of French food aid currently in place (representing €49.4 million), of which the countries of the G5 Sahel receive 27% (€19.3 million) and the Middle East and North Africa region 17% (€12 million).

This year, France has allocated over €114 million in food aid to the countries that are most vulnerable and dependent on Russia and Ukrainian exports, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa. Part of this aid will also directly support Ukraine, which is receiving €100 million in humanitarian aid from France, as well as an additional €300 million of budgetary assistance.

The European Commission adopted an initial humanitarian budget of €1.5 billion for 2022, nearly €470 million of which is allocated to sub-Saharan Africa, in response to food and nutrition needs and other fundamental needs of vulnerable populations in countries affected by conflict. Together with its European partners, France is furthermore mobilizing within the relevant international organizations, in particular the WFP and FAO, in order to contribute to a swift and effective multilateral response.

The European response is being addressed at the European Humanitarian Forum taking place in Brussels on 21, 22 and 23 March, under the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This European commitment will be continued and strengthened.

5. Specific Counter-Narrative Elements

5.1 The support provided by France and its European partners to populations fleeing conflict is not based on differential treatment

– France and the European Union are working to accept refugees under the framework of the right to asylum throughout the world.

– Ten million Ukrainians have already left their homes. 3.4 million have already arrived in Europe. The French President has set the objective of welcoming up to 100,000 Ukrainians in France in the days to come.

– Particular responsibility has fallen to the Member States of the European Union bordering Ukraine, as was the case with the countries neighbouring Syria. After one month of war, Poland has already taken in 2.1 million refugees, making it the state to welcome the second highest number of refugees, after Turkey.

– France has wholeheartedly demonstrated its solidarity with populations fleeing war since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. The European Union has also welcomed persons fleeing the war in Syria: in 2020 (the most recent consolidated figures), over 43,000 Syrian nationals were granted asylum in a country of the European Union or a Schengen associated State, and over 30,000 were granted subsidiary protection.

– Our support is also financial: France dedicates €50 million per year to supporting the Syrian population. This sum is in addition to the enormous support France has provided to the neighbouring countries affected by the Syrian crisis (Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey with over €56 million in aid in 2021) and France’s contributions to the EU’s efforts (€2.3 billion for 2020 and 2021) to support the Syrian people. The European Commission provided €1.12 billion to support Syria and the communities hosting Syrian refugees in 2021. Since the beginning of the conflict, the European Union has provided a total of €25 billion in aid.

5.2 The international intervention in Libya cannot be compared to Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine

– International intervention in Libya has been the subject of a Security Council resolution (Resolution 1973) voted for by the majority of the members of the Security Council, including the three African countries and the Arab nations representative, at the behest of the League of Arab States. Russia abstained during this vote, thus consenting to this Resolution.

– France is working tirelessly to contribute to a lasting solution to the Libyan crisis. The Paris International Conference for Libya on 12 November 2021, co-chaired by the President of the French Republic, the German Federal Chancellor, the Italian President of the Council and Libyan transitional government officials, was a successful exercise in international remobilization at a decisive stage of the political transition in Libya. We are continuing our efforts together with all of our partners to turn this momentum into concrete action. It is notably Europe’s role to contribute to this. Europe must continue to be involved both in supporting the holding of elections, and in addressing the terrorist threat, migration risks and the impact of the Libyan crisis on the security situation in the Sahel region.

– Regarding the security situation, the Conference underscored international support for the plan for the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries, established by the Libyan Joint Military Committee. The first withdrawal has been carried out, constituting an initial positive sign following the conference on 12 November. Regarding the humanitarian situation, all violence towards and poor treatment of migrants, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings, as well as other violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Libya threatening international peace and security, can serve as a basis for the implementation of targeted sanctions by the United Nations Security Council, including a travel ban and the freezing of assets.

5.3 Western interventions

– As we commemorate the anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq in 2003, France reiterates its opposition to this western intervention, which it expressed before the Security Council.

6. French communities

6.1 Support for French nationals in Ukraine

TRAVEL ADVICE UPDATES

Since the beginning of the crisis and the rise in tensions within and around Ukraine, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the French Embassy in Ukraine have been fully mobilized in supporting French nationals in Ukraine. Since last month, travel advice from the Crisis and Support Centre has been updated four times:           3 March 2022

  • 23 January: All French nationals are advised to postpone travel to Ukraine unless they have an urgent or essential reason for travelling and travel to the border areas to the north and east of the country is strongly discouraged    3 March 2022
  • 12 February: All French nationals are advised to postpone all travel to Ukraine
  • 19 February: All French nationals who do not have a compelling reason to stay – for example to take care of a dependent who is unable to travel outside the country – are advised to leave the country and all French nationals based in the east of the country are asked to leave these areas.
  • 23 February: All French nationals are advised to leave the country immediately
  • 28 February: In light of the brief window provided by the lifting of the weekend curfew in Kyiv and the surrounding areas on Monday morning, as well as Russian announcements stating that the southbound roads were open, the Minister urged French nationals to take this opportunity to travel south to Moldova.
  • Parallel announcement of the French Embassy relocating to Lviv. Facility in Lviv operational as of 1 March. Arrival of the French Ambassador on 2 March.
EUROPEAN COORDINATION

These gradual adaptations were made in close coordination with our European partners, in particular Germany, at each stage. This was again the case on 19 February when our two countries both called for all of our nationals to leave Ukraine.

BRINGING FRENCH NATIONALS TO SAFETY

The travel advice was accompanied by concrete support measures for the French community to help bring French nationals to safety:

  • Early closing of the Lycée Français in Kyiv on 15 February
  • All French nationals registered with the Embassy and all French travellers registered on Ariane were contacted individually to encourage them to adhere to the travel advice, and in particular as of 19 February, to leave the country as soon as possible via the available commercial flights. They were contacted daily as of 2 March to support them in their departure from Ukraine and to monitor those who decided not to leave or could not at that point in time
  • Appeals to airlines to ensure the continuation of direct and indirect commercial flights to France, which continued until the evening of Wednesday, 23 February
  • Departure of families and non-essential members of the French diplomatic staff from Kyiv as of 19 February, in line with the recommendations given to all French nationals
  • Relocation of the French Embassy to Lviv on 28 February, operating only with core personnel and bolstered by protective assets and reinforcements from the CDCS, parallel to the call for French nationals to leave Kyiv to the south
  • Establishment of an assistance facility at the borders for French nationals, where they are offered support for housing, food, and return travel to France should they wish:    3 March 2022
RELOCATION OF THE EMBASSY TO LVIV

– The French Embassy in Ukraine remains fully operational, serving our citizens and Ukrainian partners. An initial consular and crisis team is at work in Lviv as of today. It will be supplemented in the next few hours thanks to the arrival of resources and agents transferred from Kyiv, including the French Ambassador. French citizens can contact the embassy’s crisis unit, which remains operational and can be reached at +380 322970831.

– Just before our departure from Kyiv, official agents of partners having made the same decision as us to leave – Belgium, Italy, Japan and the International Committee of the Red Cross – called on us to coordinate the arrangements for departing from Kyiv and relocating to Lviv. France accepted this task as soon as it could. The diplomatic vehicles involved were officially identified to the forces present.

– This departure from Kyiv under no circumstance denotes departure from Ukraine. The French Embassy is relocating to Lviv in the west of the country, where the majority of our partners still in Ukraine have already been located for several weeks, as we had made the choice to remain as long as possible in the capital. There we will have more flexibility to assist our fellow citizens.

SUPPORT FOR FRENCH NATIONALS WISHING TO LEAVE

– As publicly stated by the Minister on 28 February, we saw a brief window for French nationals to leave Kyiv, with the weekend curfew in Kyiv and the surrounding area being lifted on Monday morning and Russian announcements stating that the roads to the south were open.

– It is for this reason that all French citizens in Kyiv and the surrounding area were advised to leave the city via the route that seemed the safest to us based on the information available, before the security situation made it impossible.

– Each French citizen who declared themselves to us was called individually by our crisis unit for this purpose. We are very carefully monitoring those who decided to leave by road. We are responding to each of their calls and providing them with all of the information at our disposal, in particular concerning the least congested crossing points and the assistance they can receive in the neighbouring countries once they cross the border.

– Regarding this matter we are doing the utmost to assist French nationals under the best conditions possible following the hardships they have experienced, not only from a consular standpoint but also in terms of housing and transport to an airport for travelling back to France.

– Every effort has also been made to source means of transport, in particular buses, for French nationals. The majority of the available resources, however, have been requisitioned and the others could not be mobilized (lack of drivers, closing of businesses, fuel shortages). Whenever an opportunity arises, we try to group French citizens.

– French citizens located in Ukraine were able to reach the crisis unit in Paris during this relocation operation. They can now reach our facility in Lviv at +380 322970831. We will continue to assist French nationals in Ukraine as much as possible.

– Evacuation operations are organized by the CDCS and the French Embassy in Ukraine for French citizens who cannot or do not wish to travel to the neighbouring countries using their own means. French citizens and their dependents are assisted at the other side of the border by teams deployed by the MEAE. They are offered solutions for housing and transport to French territory, covered by the French Government, and consular assistance.

– We will continue these operations for as long as necessary, security conditions permitting. We will make every effort to put in place routes out of Kyiv, the surrounding area and the east for our fellow citizens, who we continue to support night and day.

STATISTICS ON FRENCH NATIONALS AS OF 21 MARCH

We had over 1,700 French citizens and dependents in Ukraine prior to the crisis and over 1,400 have been evacuated.

4.2 Support for French citizens in Russia

EVOLUTION OF OUR ADVICE

The French Embassy and Consulates General in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Yekaterinburg are fully mobilized to inform and assist the French community

Since the beginning of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the Crisis and Support Centre’s travel advice has been updated four times:

–            28 February: French travellers are advised to leave Russia in light of the closure of European airspace to Russian aircraft

–           3 March: All French nationals are advised to leave the country unless they have a compelling reason to stay

–           At the same time, an urgent appeal is sent to French media to withdraw their correspondents and personnel from Russia.

EXISTING AIR LINKS

A non-exhaustive list of indirect air links for travelling back to France can be found on the website of the French Embassy (https://ru.ambafrance.org/Restrictions-a-la-circulation-aerienne). Passengers whose tickets are cancelled due to restrictions must first contact their airline or travel agent.

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