US Secretary of State: “There is no significant pushback” of Russian forces from the border with Ukraine


Ambassadors from European countries lay roses on the Wall of Remembrance to mark “Unity Day” in Kiev on February 16. The wall contains the names and photos of servicemen who have died since the conflict with Russian-backed separatists began in 2014. (Timothy Fadek/Redux for CNN)

The European Union embassy in Kiev flew the Ukrainian flag on Wednesday for the first time in history.

Matti Maasikas, the EU ambassador to Ukraine, said he was not sure the event strictly complied with protocol, but added that these were not normal times.

Maasikas told CNN that the EU strongly supported Ukraine and was still waiting for a peaceful solution.

“The Ukrainian authorities have our unconditional support,” he said. “We all hope that reason will prevail, but we have already seen how one can exhaust the neighboring country by amassing troops on the neighbor’s border, in order to exhaust the country economically, psychologically and energetically. And that is absolutely unacceptable.”

Maasikas was one of several European diplomats who attended a memorial service at the Memorial Wall, a monument dedicated to those who defended Ukraine during the war that began in 2014.

He said that while the crisis involving Russia and Ukraine remains in the headlines around the world, the Ukrainians themselves remain calm.

“There is no panic. The atmosphere is resolved. Ukraine has been at war for almost eight years,” Maasikas said.

Anka Feldhusen, Germany’s ambassador to Ukraine, agreed. She hasn’t noticed much panic on the streets of Kiev in recent weeks, even as the US and NATO continued to issue increasingly dire warnings about the risk of a Russian invasion.

He compared the situation to the first days of the Covid-19 pandemic in Kiev. While people in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom hoarded toilet paper and flour, Ukrainians kept their cool.

“Of course people are worried, everyone now reads what is written everywhere. But I admire the Ukrainians for their calm and the way they know that life has to go on… they have suffered so much in the last few years. 30 years old, I think they’re probably used to it, but they’re very, very quiet people,” he said.

Feldhusen has recently found himself in trouble over a diplomatic dispute between his country and Ukraine. Last month, she was summoned to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, a diplomatic step rarely used between allies.

the ukrainian government has been critical of Germany for not providing more military aid to Kiev. Berlin announced last month that it would supply 5,000 military helmets to Ukraine as tensions with Russia escalate, as well as a field hospital and medical training, but not lethal weapons.

“I think our relationships are on a very, very solid foundation. There are always ups and downs,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a misunderstanding. I think we have to work very hard in Germany to understand what we can do to help and what we can’t.”

Yulia Kesaieva contributed reporting to this post


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