Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ statements at a joint press conference with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Odessa

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Dear Mr.President, my friend Volodymyr, thank you on behalf of my delegation for this very warm welcome.

I will begin by expressing my sincere condolences for the horrific bombing on 2 March against urban housing complexes here in Odessa.

We have expressed our disgust at Russia’s actions against your country many times, but we will never cease to feel sorrow over such a degree of brutality and barbarity, which leads to the death of civilians, young children and even infants.

We toured here in Odessa today, we visited the site of the Russian attack, and I was clearly struck on the one hand by the image of the devastation you have suffered, but on the other hand by the image of the resilience and bravery of the Ukrainian people.

And I am doubly moved to be here today in this city, a monument to world civilisation. Here where the Filiki Etaireia (Society of Friends) lit the flame of Greek Independence, with the slogan ‘Freedom or Death’, but also in the symbolic place where the Ukrainian people are resisting, fighting for their own freedom.

Along with Mariupol, Odessa was for many centuries a vital hub of Hellenism on the Black Sea coast. And I had the great pleasure a little while ago to meet representatives of the Greek diaspora, who are the living continuation of this long-standing connection between our two countries. And as today the city reflects the struggle against the Russian invasion and occupation, this doubles the ties that unite our states, our societies and our common historical path.

My presence here reflects, I believe, the respect of the entire free world towards your heroic people. At the same time, it underlines the commitment of my country, Greece, to remain at your side. A partner in the just effort to defend your territory, your national sovereignty and the dignity of tens of millions of Ukrainian citizens.

It is a principled stance, which we have consistently maintained from the very first moment, both bilaterally and within the framework of the European Union and the United Nations. Because in the 21st century no war can bleed the heart of Europe. Nor can it violate International Law by force, especially the defined borders and territorial integrity of an independent country.

You are well aware, dear Volodymyr, that my country has always defended peace, rejecting any unrealistic revisionism. All the more so as it has itself been confronted with aggression in the past. And at a time when authoritarianism and despotism are black spots on our map and our culture.

Therefore, Greece’s participation in Europe’s defence assistance to Ukraine needs no further interpretation. As well as in the multifaceted effort your country is making to endure and reconstruct itself in the midst of fighting, in the midst of bombardments that have already lasted two years.

It is an assistance for which the European Union has allocated close to 100 billion euros and Greece was a leading player in the recent decision of the European Council – taken with some difficulties and delays – to disburse an additional 50 billion euros for financial support to Ukraine for the next four years.

Because the President rightly said that Ukraine needs predictability, not just in the short term, but also in the medium term. And a month ago we even organised in Athens, together with the European Investment Bank, the special Conference on the Reconstruction of Ukraine, with the participation of dozens of companies.

While our ports, and especially the port of Alexandroupolis has now become a key hub for international transport to and from your troubled country. And of course Odessa is a top priority region and one on which we want to focus Greek reconstruction programmes.

Mr. President, we support your European and Euro-Atlantic perspective, believing that their preconditions will ultimately benefit all Ukrainians. This is something that is confirmed by the experience of all the Member States of Europe. That is why your own speed towards European structures should now be increased.

And finally, Mr.President, you know that we have supported the ‘Formula for Peace’, this ten-point peace plan that you have developed and we will be present at the upcoming Peace Summit, not only because the hope for peace in Ukraine must not be extinguished, but because Greece and the world need it.

My friend Volodymyr, thanks again for the hospitality. Greece will continue to support Ukraine in this just struggle to defend its national integrity. And the fact that I am personally here in Odessa now means that the Greek Diaspora will always be here, as our common history wants it to be.

Question: We are now two years after the Russian invasion and what we are seeing is a kind of fatigue of the Ukrainian people and also fatigue, if I may say so, of European public opinion. While the war continues, we also have political leaders who are weighing up the political costs of supporting Ukraine for fear of the rise of extremist forces.

I wanted to ask you, how concerned are you about this atmosphere and if you had the opportunity to address the sceptics, what exactly would you say?

And, Mr Mitsotakis, why are you visiting Odessa today and not Kiev? Thank you.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I am visiting Odessa and not Kiev, in consultation with President Zelenskyy, not only to be in Odessa and live the experience of being on the front line of this war, but also because, as I said, Odessa is identified in the consciousness of our homeland with the struggle for independence, with the Greek Revolution, as it was here that the Filiki Etaireia (Society of Friends) was formed and the developments that eventually led to the independence of my homeland were initiated.

But I am here for one more reason: to demonstrate the economic importance of Odessa as the main port of Ukrainian exports to Europe and the world. It is extremely important to keep this shipping channel open so that Ukraine can export its products, so that it can also have additional revenues and in this way support its economy, which is obviously being tested by this two-year war.

Finally, to your first question, I would answer that this war concerns us all, it concerns all Europeans. Two years ago, the unthinkable happened: a war started essentially in the heart of Europe. By an aggressive force which challenged International Law and violated the recognised borders of another country through the use of weapons.

We can therefore neither remain silent nor neutral in this struggle that Ukraine is waging to defend the core of European values.

And that is why Europe as a whole has remained and remains – and I want to assure President Zelenskyy of this – united in its struggle to support Ukraine in its legitimate right to defend itself against the Russian invasion. And that is why every country is doing the best it can – Greece is included in this – recognising Ukraine’s needs and our own capabilities, so that we can in a stable way strengthen Ukraine with the defence equipment that it so badly needs.

Question: (in Ukrainian)

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: We were at the port of Odessa and President Zelenskyy and his staff gave us a tour, explaining to us on the one hand the importance of the port for Ukraine’s exports and on the other hand showing us the significant damage that this critical infrastructure has suffered, when we heard some sirens. And shortly afterwards, as we were getting into our cars, we heard a big explosion.

I think that for us this is the best, most vivid reminder that there is a real war going on here. Every day there is a war, which not only affects the front, the soldiers, it affects our innocent fellow citizens. As you can see here, cultural monuments of immense value are being destroyed.

And I think this is one more reason why all European leaders should come to Ukraine. Because it is one thing to see, to hear the description from the media or from President Zelenskyy, with whom we communicate regularly, and it is quite another to experience the war first-hand.