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“I had the opportunity to explain everything” says foreign minister

Following a first meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart Belgian foreign minister Hadja Lahbib (Francophone liberal) says she has had an opportunity to explain everything and that her explanation was well received. Shortly after her appointment the Belgian foreign minister was criticised in Ukraine in several quarters for visiting Russian occupied Crimea when she was still a journalist.

Ms Lahbib travelled to Crimea before she became foreign minister, when she was still working as a journalist for the Francophone public broadcaster RTBF.  She travelled via Moscow, which is illegal in Ukraine, to report on a cultural festival in the Ukrainian peninsula in which President Putin’s daughter played a large part and speaking on RTBF Radio said she had “been in Russia”.

The revelations led to tension between Brussels and Kyiv.  Ms Lahbib has now met with Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba in the margin of the UN general assembly. She describes the meeting as a “hearty one” and adds “serious matters needed to be discussed because the situation is serious”.

Ukraine’s top request is one for weapons.

Ms Lahbib intends to visit Ukraine at an as yet unspecified time: “There’s no point in a symbolic meeting.  Ukraine needed that at the beginning of the war, but now a more meaningful message is required.  A trip like that is expensive and I only want to travel when there is a meaningful project” she told VRT.

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