Athens’ top diplomat says he wants to personally lead a humanitarian mission into Mariupol following a private debriefing he had with the Greek consul general of Ukraine’s besieged city.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Tuesday that Athens would continue to be present in the region of Mariupol,” describing it as an area “where Greeks settled centuries ago.”
Dendias previously met with the Greek consul of Mariupol, Manolis Androulakis, who had just returned from the besieged city with news that many ethnic Greeks in the city were still suffering.
'I sent a note verbale to the Ukrainian side asking for the facilitation of the delivery of humanitarian aid in Mariupol and another note verbale to the Russian side asking not to obstruct it'
Androulakis had stayed behind during bombardment and power outages while unarmed civilians including ethnic Greeks managed to evacuate Mariupol, but there were conflicting reports as to whether he had also been held hostage by Ukrainian nationalists.
The Greek consul dismissed the hostage rumors in a video chat after leaving Mariupol as he was still making his way through Ukraine but after his return to Greece he called on media to respect his family and privacy, saying he wanted to talk but not before debriefing government officials in Athens.
“Dear friends in mass media, thank you for your interest. But there is no way I am going to talk to any network before updating the political and administrative leadership within the foreign ministry,” Androulakis wrote on Facebook after his return.
After a meeting between Androulakis and Dendias, the foreign minister took to Twitter to say he was putting both Ukrainian and Russian sides on notice and informing them of his intention to deliver humanitarian aid to Mariupol in person.
“Today I also sent a note verbale to the Ukrainian side asking for the facilitation of the delivery of humanitarian aid in Mariupol and another note verbale to the Russian side asking not to obstruct it,” Dendias wrote.
At least ten ethnic Greeks have been killed and several have been wounded in Mariupol, both before and after Russia launched an attack on the port city.
Two Greeks north of Mariupol were reportedly shot dead by Ukrainian soldiers prior to Russia's invasion in late February, prompting Greek MEP Emmanouil Fragkos to call on the Commission to push for an investigation.
More than 150 Greek citizens, vessel crews, and ethnic Greeks have been evacuated from the region, according to the Greek government, while there were conflicting reports over which side was attacking civilians during evacuations.
Last week the Cypriot foreign ministry officially called for an immediate end to the siege of Mariupol, with Nicosia saying they were looking forward to having civilians including members of the Greek Diaspora evacuated out of the Ukrainian warzone.
Androulakis said he was looking for more people to bring out with him up until the very end, saying he managed to find some women and children.
“I brought them along. Could I have brought more of them? Under different circumstances, yes,” he said.
Athens recently pointed the finger squarely at Moscow over the deaths of Greek civilians in Mariupol, saying they had information the fatalities were the result of Russian air strikes.
But Moscow says it has evidence that elements within the Ukrainian army and neo-Nazi battalions were behind the attacks, arguing nationalists have been known for many years to strike even with heavy weapons at civilians.