Russia’s Putin assured his commitment to humanitarian access in Ukraine, Norway PM says

FILE PHOTO: Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere speaks during the High Level Segment session of the One Ocean Summit (OOS) in Brest
FILE PHOTO: Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere speaks during the High Level Segment session of the One Ocean Summit (OOS) in Brest, France February 11, 2022. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

March 31, 2022

By Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) – Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said Vladimir Putin had assured him Russia would contribute to securing humanitarian access to besieged civilians in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

During a one-hour long phone call with the Russian president, Stoere said he urged Putin to end the war in Ukraine, pull out Russian troops and enable humanitarian access.

“We have very limited expectations of what could be achieved, but nothing should be left untried in the situation we are now in,” Stoere said.

Commenting on their discussions about the need for humanitarian access to civilians in the port city of Mariupol, Stoere said: “My impression is that he [Putin] confirms Russia’s intention to contribute to that.”

Stoere added, however, that only actions on the ground could tell whether Russia delivers on the promises or not.

A convoy of 45 Ukrainian buses set out for Mariupol on Thursday to try to deliver humanitarian supplies and bring out civilians, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk and the Red Cross said.

The leaders’ phone call came at Norway’s initiative after Stoere first discussed making such an approach with leaders of countries such as France, Germany and Finland who have been in direct contact with Russia, Stoere said.

“The feedback was it was right to use every occasion to say, from the outside [of Russia] how this is experienced and set some expectations and demands,” Stoere told a news conference.

Norway, a NATO member, shares a border with Russia in the Arctic. The nations have never been at war and in 2010 they peacefully negotiated a maritime border that had been disputed for four decades.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” its neighbour. Kyiv and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

(Editing by Alexandra Hudson)