French foreign minister visits under-fire Ukrainian City

AFP , Thursday 26 Jan 2023

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna on Thursday arrived in Ukrainian city Odessa in a visit aimed at underscoring France's support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion.

French FM
French Foreign and European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna arrives for an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on January 23, 2023. AFP


She was there "to show France's support for Ukraine's sovereignty, now as before," Colonna wrote on Twitter alongside a picture of herself in front of a city landmark.

Although delayed by a new wave of Russian strikes overnight and on Thursday morning, Colonna was still set to meet her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in the historic Black Sea port.

They will discuss "the Ukrainians' immediate and urgent needs for military and civilian equipment," a diplomatic source told AFP.

After decisions by the US and Germany to supply battle tanks, some observers have wondered whether France will send its Leclerc model into the fight against Moscow's forces.

So far "President (Volodymyr) Zelensky hasn't said he needs Leclerc tanks", the diplomatic source said.

They cited "obvious" reasons of logistics, maintenance, and low stocks of the tank, which is operated by fewer countries than the US Abrams and German Leopard 2.

What's more, "for any army, having 10 different types of tanks in its forces would create an almost insoluble logistical equation," the source added.

Colonna's visit also follows the Wednesday adding of Odessa to UN cultural body UNESCO's register of world heritage sites in danger.

"Among targets of today's mass missile strike, Russia struck Odessa causing massive power outages," Kuleba tweeted.

"This destruction is (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's response to UNESCO inscribing Odessa on its World Heritage List yesterday".

Colonna is later Thursday expected to visit an electrical site destroyed in a Russian strike, as well as a centre hosting refugees from southern city Kherson.

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