France reopens embassy in Kyiv but warns its nationals to stay away

·2-min read

The French Ambassador to Ukraine, Etienne de Poncins, has returned to Kyiv, saying that the security situation is now "acceptable". But the embassy continues to warn French nationals that they should "absolutely" avoid the stricken capital.

"Just because we have reopened the embassy in Kyiv does not mean we have changed the advice to French nationals. Quite the opposite, in fact."

That was the message from Etienne de Poncins, French Ambassador to Ukraine, speaking on FranceInfo radio on Monday morning.

He and the rest of the embassy staff were transferred to the western city of Lviv on 28 February, shortly after the start of the Russian invasion.

On Friday, the French diplomat returned with a limited staff to his post in Ukraine's capital, but he continues to warn fellow countrymen and women to stay away.

Macron visit remains uncertain

Etienne de Poncins is unable to say if French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Ukraine. The French leader has been invited to come and "see for himself" by his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Similarly, on the question of whether some Russian actions in Ukrainian territory deserve to be classified as genocide, the French ambassador is very cautious.

"The term 'genocide' has a very specific judicial significance," he says. "That's a question which will have to be decided by the International Criminal Court."

After a seven-week absence from the Kyiv embassy, the ambassador has returned because the capital city is no longer at risk of being surrounded by Russian soldiers.

"There's still the possibility of missile strikes. But that's a danger everywhere in Ukraine. Even in Lviv, there have been missile attacks.

"We are needed here to facilitate contacts between the Ukrainian military and the Defence Ministry in Paris."

The French embassy in the capital has not been damaged. The ambassador finds Kyiv much changed, with security checkpoints everywhere. "But there's a clear will to get on with ordinary life, insofar as that's possible," he says.

Other nations send diplomats back

The Italian embassy in Kyiv was scheduled to reopen on Monday.

Spain will reopen its embassy in Kyiv "shortly," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday.

The country's diplomatic delegation was evacuated from the Ukrainian capital to Poland shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

"We will reopen the Spanish embassy in Kyiv in Ukraine shortly, in the coming days, as another show of the commitment of the Spanish government, of Spanish society, with the people of Ukraine," Sanchez said during an interview with private television Antena 3.

Spain is providing support to Ukraine through military equipment, humanitarian aid and by welcoming Ukrainian refugees.

Turkey has moved its embassy in Ukraine back to Kyiv after relocating it to Chernivtsi near the Romanian border.

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