Dutch prime minister tells Ukraine it has ‘friends all over the world’

Mark Rutte at the talks. Photo: Remko van de Wal ANP
Mark Rutte at the talks. Photo: Remko van de Wal ANP

Prime minister Mark Rutte met his Ukrainian counterpart Denys Shmyhal for talks on Wednesday against a backdrop of mounting tension in the region.

The trip had already been planned to discuss the MH17 disaster but the Russian military build-up in the border area is now centre stage.

After the meeting, Rutte told reporters he hoped that the situation will calm down again and that the sanctions being prepared will not prove necessary.

‘We agreed that we have to do all we can to de-escalate the situation,’ Rutte is quoted as saying by the AD. ‘This is the only way to solve the situation.’

Rutte refused to speculate about a further escalation of the conflict but did express his support for Ukraine, telling Shmyhal ‘you have friends all over the world, you know that’, according to website Nu.nl.

Foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra said earlier the Netherlands will look sympathetically at the request if Ukraine asks for help with the supply of defensive weapons.

The Netherlands is also working on setting up a team of cyber experts to help Ukraine deal with cyber attacks, and is making two F-35 fighter jets available to the Nato quick reaction force, which will be based in Bulgaria.

The Kremlin has said it sees Nato as a security threat, and is demanding legal guarantees that the alliance will not expand further east, including into Ukraine.

Rutte and Hoekstra met Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky later in the day and then traveled to Moldavia for talks with president Maia Saunde.

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