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Trip to Ukraine a courageous show of solidarity

Dudek Bartosz Kommentarbild App
Bartosz Dudek
March 16, 2022

The Polish, Czech and Slovenian premiers visited Kyiv as a show of solidarity with Ukraine. A sign of courage with huge symbolic force, says DW's Bartosz Dudek.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy meeting with Slovenia Prime Minister Jansa, Czech Prime Minister Fiala, Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki and Polish Deputy Prime Minister Kaczynski
The three European leaders went to Kyiv to show their solidarity with UkraineImage: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP/picture alliance

On August 12, 2008, Russian troops were marching towards the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Suddenly a delegation of five leaders turned up in the city: The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and — Ukraine.

Before setting off from his country, Polish President Lech Kaczynski had said that the Russian state had once again "shown its true face."

Speaking on a central square in Tbilisi in the name of his fellow leaders, he said that Russia believed that all the nations surrounding it should be subordinated to it.

"And we say: No!" he said defiantly. "What I want to tell you and tell our friends from our shared European Union is that Central Europe, Georgia and our whole region is going to have a say […]. And we also realize all too well that what has befallen Georgia today may befall Ukraine tomorrow, the Baltic States a day after, and then perhaps also my own country: Poland."

Now, 14 years later, the first part of his prophesy has come true. President Vladimir Putin's Russia has attacked Ukraine. The apocalyptic images of destroyed cities, dead civilians and millions of fleeing refugees have dominated the headlines for weeks.

Currently, the Russian army is at the gates of the capital Kyiv. And we all look on in horror.

Act of pure symbolism

That a delegation of leaders from Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia chose this moment to go to Ukraine is extremely significant. As is the fact that Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was accompanied by his official deputy, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the late Lech Kaczynski.

This visit was an act of pure symbolism. The idea was to send a message to the Western world that Poland and Russia's other neighbors were right even if they were not listened to. It says: We were right and today we stand resolutely at Ukraine's side.

One can criticize the policies of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, but on Tuesday, he and his colleagues were in the right place at the right time. That they, of all people, were the ones representing values that are non-negotiable for the whole West: the right to freedom, to self-determination and to territorial integrity, is telling. They showed — and gave — courage. The Ukrainians will never forget.

But now the question remains: Are these the only leading politicians of the free world willing to break out of their comfort zone and stand up for Western values at personal risk?

Where is the French president of the Council of the European Union? Where are the heads of the European Council and the European Commission?

Where are the German politicians who have been feeding Russia military machine with their energy dollars for decades? Those who now — rightly — are accused of having the blood of Ukrainian women and children on their hands?

Three EU prime ministers travel to war zone: Bernd Riegert reports

This article has been translated from German. 

Edited by: Andreas Illmer