Prime Minister KYIV (VG) Jonas Gahr Store will pay a top-secret visit to Ukraine on Friday. He tells VG that he will never forget the impressions of the trip.
From night to Friday, while a curfew was in effect and Ukrainian soldiers chased Russian saboteurs, the train set off with Støre to Kyiv. From there, the trip continues to Chernihiv, northern Ukraine.
For a month, the city was subjected to intense bombardment by Russian warplanes and artillery, and among the areas hit was a residential block in the center.
– There were no military targets here? asks Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoer.
– Here it was just a residential area, a pharmacy and a hospital. The governor of Chernihiv, Vyacheslav Chaus, says that he was tough here in the first days of the war.
Stoer sees the danger of the large hole in the apartment building and the twisted rebar. Then he got into the armored car and drove to another war-torn city in northern Ukraine.
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With him to Ukraine, he had promises of support for ten billion crowns. The funds will cover three main purposes – humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and support for the operation of key jobs, schools and hospitals. The last part is military assistance.
During a high security operation, in a building surrounded by armed guards and sandbags, Store met the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
– I would like to thank your country for its support, Zelensky said at a press conference of the two heads of state.
Visits in the war
Støre did not become the first person, nor will he be the last to visit the war-torn country.
The list of heads of state who visited Ukraine began to grow. When Prime Minister Boris Johnson strolled the wide streets of Kyiv in early April, it made headlines around the world. Since then, Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Schulz and Justin Trudeau have visited the city, which Western intelligence believed would fall within 72 hours.
For four months now, the Ukrainian people have been fighting the Russian invasion force. In recent weeks, VG has traveled around the country and spoken to Ukrainian soldiers. They all have one prayer, and that is to get more and heavier weapons. This must happen now.
Without this, they will not be able to resist, as many of them say.
You must have a relationship with Russia
At the end of June, it turned out that Norway donated 22 Norwegian artillery vehicles to the country at war.
– Ukraine several months ago requested heavier weapons. Were we too slow?
– No, from day one, Norway has changed its practices by providing support to a country that defends itself. We did our best to meet the needs of Ukraine, and we delivered it according to what we said we will deliver to them. We have also delivered what you can call heavier weapons. Norway has given its share and will continue to support Ukraine also on the humanitarian and economic side.
– The fact that we have Russia as a neighbor, is this included in the calculation of the amount of heavy weapons we offer?
– Everything here is complete, but the fact that we have Russia as a neighbor underlines the importance of showing solidarity with another neighbor who has been subjected to a large-scale invasion, says Store.
– We will continue our relationship with Russia so that we can have dialogue, solve problems and cooperate in the North. But we cannot say that this does not concern us, because it is. What happens here also has a direct impact on our safety.
The journey passes through devastated neighborhoods, cars with bullet holes piercing windshields and roadblocks.
Then a convoy of armored cars drove out of a school in the village of Yehdana. The windows are gone and a large hole can be seen in the ceiling.
Here, 300 residents of the city were held by Russian soldiers for about a month.
22-year-old Angela was living with her family when what she described as aggressive Russian soldiers ordered them to go down to the school’s basement.
– They shouted at us that there would be a lot of bombing, she told VG.
They spent nearly a month in a damp basement. Both infants and the elderly had to sleep on the concrete floor.
Because of the lack of oxygen, the elderly are starting to feel happier, she says.
With Angela was her grandfather who died there.
When the young family went to the cemetery to bury him, they were bombed by Russian forces, she said.
My mom and dad were injured. My father was badly injured and got shrapnel in his leg. She says now he can’t walk properly.
The family received first aid from Russian soldiers, but they still had to go back to the basement, and they were not allowed to leave it.
On March 30, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian troops withdrew from the village.
– The next day our army came here, and we were very happy to see them.
A deeply inhuman act
– We who came from Northern Europe put you in our hearts, says Stoer, while talking to some residents who were kept in the basement.
– This is a very inhumane act, almost torture of a civilian population crammed into a room in the basement and where the door is locked, he tells VG.
The trip downstairs made a strong impression on the Prime Minister.
– I went down and saw in that basement, and I think I’ll never forget it.
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