NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, together with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, opened a joint NATO-Ukraine civil emergency exercise in Yavoriv on Monday (21 September 2015), at the start of his first official visit to Ukraine which is to highlight the partnership between NATO and Ukraine.“This exercise can make a real and significant difference to the way we respond to real life emergencies,” the Secretary General said. “This is not a military exercise. It is an opportunity for first responders – from Allies and from partner nations – to work together.”
The four-day exercise, which involves 28 NATO and partner nations, shows the practical value of the NATO-Ukraine partnership, said Mr. Stoltenberg. “By hosting this exercise you are showing that Ukraine wants to contribute to the safety of the European people and to the security of the Euro-Atlantic area,” he said. During his two-day visit, the Secretary General will meet with President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and other senior Ukrainian officials, including parliamentarians. Their talks are expected to focus on Ukraine’s reform efforts and future NATO-Ukraine cooperation.
The Secretary General’s visit signals NATO’s strong support for Ukraine and efforts to further strengthen NATO-Ukraine cooperation. Speaking at a joint press conference with President Poroshenko, he also spoke of the current decrease in fighting between government forces and the separatists, saying “what we have seen is that the ceasefire is mainly holding and this is encouraging because this was not the case before. But still, the situation is very fragile.” He stressed that “the way to reach a peaceful negotiated solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine is the Minsk Agreements.” He added that full implementation was essential “meaning also that Russia has to stop supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine.”
The “Ukraine 2015” exercise is jointly run by NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) and the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SESU). More than 1,100 people are taking part, including first responders, search and rescue teams and experts dealing with the fallout from a chemical or nuclear attack. The exercise will test the skills of participants in dealing with a mine explosion and collapse. It is the third time Ukraine has hosted this exercise. Following the official opening, the Secretary General watched a demonstration of modern equipment and assets being used in the exercise.