Statements made by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson [May 4, 2023]

Statements made by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson [May 4, 2023]

Statements made by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson [May 4, 2023]

Slovakia – Meeting between Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna and her Slovak counterpart, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Rastislav Káčer (Paris, May 4, 2023)

On May 4, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna hosted her Slovak counterpart, Rastislav Káčer, in Paris.

The ministers discussed the consequences of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, reaffirming our unwavering support for Ukraine in the long term. They also spoke about the upcoming NATO summit, which will be held in Vilnius this July; strengthening European strategic autonomy in line with the Versailles agenda; and the challenges facing stability in the Western Balkans. The ministers also talked about European industrial policy and energy issues.

As this year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and Slovakia, the ministers commended the high caliber of our bilateral relationship, which will be further strengthened by the upcoming renewal of the strategic partnership between our two countries.

Ukraine – Massive new Russian air strikes (May 4, 2023)

France condemns Russia’s latest barrage of missile and drone strikes in the strongest possible terms as well as the continued bombardment of targets throughout Ukraine over the past few days. The cities of Kyiv, Odesa, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia were all hit by missile or drone salvos.

These strikes and bombardments once again deliberately targeted civilian objectives and resulted in civilian casualties. The bombing of various civilian sites in the city and region of Kherson, including a supermarket and a train station, reportedly left 21 dead and 48 wounded, according to an initial estimate by Ukrainian authorities. This targeting of civilian infrastructures and populations underscores Russia’s clear intention to continue escalating its war of aggression in Ukraine.

As Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna has stressed repeatedly, these unacceptable actions are war crimes and cannot go unpunished. France will continue to provide support to Ukrainian courts and to the International Criminal Court to combat impunity for such crimes. It will also continue its military and civilian support in order to bolster Ukrainian resilience for as long as necessary.

Belarus – Sentencing of three journalists from the Nexta independent media organization (May 3, 2023)

France is appalled by the announcement that the Lukashenko regime sentenced three Belarusian journalists from the Nexta independent media outlet – Roman Protasevich, Stepan Putilo and Yan Rudzik- to eight, 20 and 19 years in prison respectively. The latter two were sentenced in absentia.

In May 2021, the Belarusian government diverted a Ryanair flight [to Minsk] in order to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich in violation of the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation and the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation.

The Lukashenko regime has once again demonstrated its utter contempt for the freedom of expression in particular and human rights in general. Once again, the Belarusian courts were used by the regime to suppress any criticism of the government.

As a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Belarus is required to comply with its human rights commitments. France therefore calls on the Belarusian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release and rehabilitate all political prisoners held in the country. In the face of ongoing brutal repression, France reiterates its support for defenders of press freedom and human rights in Belarus.

OSCE – Publication of the Moscow Mechanism report on the forcible transfer and/or deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia (May 4, 2023)

France hails the publication of the Report on Violations and Abuses of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, related to the Forcible Transfer and/or Deportation of Ukrainian Children to the Russian Federation. Independent experts Professor Veronika Bílkovà, Dr. Cecilie Hellestveit and Dr. Elīna Šteinert prepared this report in line with the OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism invoked on March 30 by 45 countries, including France.

France was deeply concerned by the conclusions of this report, which found that “a large number of Ukrainian children have been, since 24 February 2022 and even prior to this date, displaced from the territory of Ukraine to the temporarily occupied territories and to the territory of the Russian Federation.” This practice constitutes a war crime and “may amount to a crime against humanity of ‘deportation or forcible transfer of population.’” The report’s conclusions add to the serious human rights violations, including the deportation of children, documented by the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine.

We call on Russia to comply with its international obligations and commitments, to implement the recommendations of this report without delay, and to immediately end its practice of forcibly transferring or deporting Ukrainian children to the temporarily occupied territories and Russia. Russia must take all necessary measures to facilitate the return of forcibly transferred or deported children to their families or legal guardians in Ukraine.

France is staunchly committed – along with Ukraine, its partners, and national and international courts, including the International Criminal Court, which issued two arrest warrants in connection with the deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children – to combating impunity for the perpetrators of these actions. The OSCE report’s conclusions will provide input for ongoing investigations with the goal of formally establishing responsibility in regard to allegations of the forcible transfer and/or deportation of Ukrainian children.

France reiterates its strong condemnation of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

Rwanda – Flooding (May 4, 2023)

In the aftermath of the torrential rains and mudslides that occurred in western Rwanda during the night of May 2-3, leaving more than 120 dead, France offers its condolences to the victims’ families. We stand in total solidarity with Rwanda as well as Uganda, which was also affected by this disaster that caused the deaths of at least six people in the southwest of the country.

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