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‘Must cooperate with India now in the war situation’, says top Slovak diplomat Martin Klus

Slovak Republic’s state secretary Martin Klus has said that cooperation with India will continue amid the Ukraine war while emphasising on the role played by his country in the evacuation of many Indians.

Many Indians were evacuated from the Slovak Republic as they crossed over from war-torn Ukraine.

Speaking to WION’s Principal Diplomatic Correspondent Sidhant Sibal, state secretary of the ministry of foreign and European affairs of the Slovak Republic, Klus said, “Slovakia has taken extraordinary measures to facilitate the entry of Indian nationals who were fleeing Ukraine. We have also extended maximum support to all repatriated Indians from Slovakia in the last few days. ”

Slovakia, along with Poland, Romania, Hungary and Moldova, has played a key role in housing stranded Indians. Under India’s ‘Operation Ganga’, ministerial-level envoy Kiren Rijiju was sent to oversee the evacuation from Slovakia, and PM Modi held talks with Slovakia’s PM Heger.

Over 20,000 Indians have left Ukraine since the Russian invasion of the country that started in February.

On the Russian invasion, Klus, who is one of the top diplomats of the country, said, “We are facing the greatest security crisis in decades. The threat to Ukraine is a threat to Europe. The unity of the West is of utmost importance. It makes the Russian regime increasingly nervous when considering the calibration of our response towards Russia – the interruption/termination of cooperation.”

WION: How is Slovakia helping in the evacuation of Indian citizens from Ukraine?

Martin Klus: The Slovak Republic allows entry to all nationalities coming from Ukraine, even those not complying with entry conditions under regular circumstances. Our ties with India strengthened further recently during the evacuation of Indian nationals from Ukraine via Kosice.

WION: What kind of coordination has been happening between the 2 countries in terms of political engagement in the aftermath of the war?

Martin Klus: There is no particular future scenario in cooperation with India in terms of political engagement in the aftermath of the war. We must cooperate with India now in the war situation.

Slovakia has taken extraordinary measures to facilitate the entry of Indian nationals, fleeing Ukraine.  We have also extended maximum support to all repatriated Indians from Slovakia in the last few days. We stand together with India as friends and partners, and we will give continuous support to Indian nationals in the coming days as well.

These assurances were given by our PM E Heger to Indian PM Modi during their telephonic conversation on February 28. On the other hand, we would like to appeal to all countries to engage against the war and support the UN resolutions, reject illegal Russian actions and express support for territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty.

Slovakia and India are both are fully subscribed to the core principles enshrined in the UN Charter, notably the sovereign equality and territorial integrity of States; the inviolability of internationally recognised borders; refraining from the threat or use of force; and the freedom of States to choose or change their own security arrangements.

These principles are neither negotiable nor subject to revision or re-interpretation.

WION: How catastrophic has been the Russian invasion of Ukraine for Europe and your country. Especially in terms of refugee influx in your country?

Martin Klus: We are facing the greatest security crisis in decades. The threat to Ukraine is a threat to Europe. Slovakia strongly condemns the armed attack by the Russian Federation on Ukraine. Russia violated the territorial integrity of sovereign Ukraine. This of course brought war back to Europe and brought back very sad images that we thought were forgotten.  I sincerely think that Russia’s aggression created a significant shift in European history.

On the one hand, it not only triggered unity amongst European allies, but it also re-connected the democratic world. On the other hand, Ukraine is our neighbour, and it needs our comprehensive support and full-fledged assistance.

Currently, we are seeing an influx of more than 150 000 refugees at our borders. However, we expect the situation to deteriorate. Slovakia is fully aware of this, and we will deliver. Our government has already approved three packages of military assistance worth €8.7 mn and humanitarian aid. We will continue to do our utmost.  A humanitarian disaster in Ukraine must be prevented. This is of key importance.

WION: What efforts Slovakia has been leading to deal with Russia. We have seen sanctions against Putin. How effective they will be?

Martin Klus: The unity of the West is of utmost importance, and it is unprecedented. It works and makes the Russian regime increasingly nervous. When considering the calibration of our response towards Russia – the interruption/termination of cooperation – I understand that when the forest is cut down, branches fly. We have successfully voted against Russia at the UNGA resolution. Russia is still intensively reaching out to countries.

Slovakia was among the countries that appealed to the ICC prosecutor to launch an investigation concerning crimes related to the ongoing conflict. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. We are also imposing heavy and effective sanctions on Russian assets through various European Union mechanisms. I´m very happy that we have targeted not only Russian financial assets, but also persons directly connected to the invasion. Furthermore, we have been able to shut down transmission from Russian channels spreading disinformation and lies.

WION: How do you see the situation panning out? In terms of its impact in the region.

Martin Klus: Right now, all I can say is that it is very hard to make a prediction of Putin´s aggression and plans. Firstly, we are doing our best with offering the best services to refugees coming to Slovakia from Ukraine. We are in full solidarity with Ukrainians, and we hope the senseless aggression will stop as soon as possible.

Secondly, the Russian aggression only reaffirms the importance of strengthening our defence capabilities. The European Parliament has voted to set up a European Defence Fund, and the member states have created the European Peace Facility that is mobilising to provide weapons to Ukraine. In the coming weeks, the European Council will adopt the Strategic Compass. With the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, we must amplify our reflection, adjust our means and anticipate our responses. It is no longer a luxury, it’s an urgent necessity.

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