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Solidarity visit of V4 capitals’ mayors in Kyiv

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V4/Ukraine – The mayors of the Visegrád Four’s capital cities, who have formed a “Pact of Free Cities”, visited Kyiv on 11 January. Bratislava’s mayor Matúš Vallo, Budapest’s Gergely Karácsony, Prague’s Zdeněk Hřib, and Warsaw’s Rafał Trzaskowski came at the invitation of their Ukrainian counterpart Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv.

In addition to Vitali Klitschko, with whom the discussions focused on deepening cooperation in the field of humanitarian aid, support for refugees, planning for post-war reconstruction, and strengthening security, the four Central European mayors also met with Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevhen Perebyinis before visiting Bucha, the city on the outskirts of Kyiv which has become infamous for the massacre of civilians attributed to the Russian army.

On this occasion, the mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony, published a message of support for Ukraine on his Facebook account: “For me, standing by Ukraine is not an issue to be thought over, but a matter of conviction and duty.

We Hungarians know exactly what it means when an occupying army tries to destroy a nation’s desire for freedom with weapons.

That is why I made our Ukrainian friends understand that Hungary is not just the Hungarian government. No people can be blamed for the decisions made on their behalf by their leaders.

I brought to the Ukrainian capital a message from millions of Hungarians, many of them in Budapest: hold on.

Because this fight is not only a fight between Ukraine and Russia. It is a fight between good and evil. And only the good guys can win. This is the condition for peace, it is in the interest of Ukraine, of Hungarians living in Ukraine, Hungary, Europe, and the whole world. 

His Czech counterpart, Zdeněk Hřib, stressed that

the role of cities is crucial in helping Ukraine, which is facing a genocide perpetrated by Russia.

Because of the attacks on the vital infrastructure there, people are seeking shelter in our country, and we have provided them with a base until the invasion of their country is over. 

An initiative to connect cities in Ukraine and Central Europe

The mayor of Bratislava, Matúš Vallo, presented a platform to connect Ukrainian cities in need of help and Central European cities willing to provide it: “Since the beginning of the aggression against Ukraine, Russian forces have caused enormous damage in Ukrainian cities. Infrastructure has been destroyed, power and heating has been cut off, and residents have been evacuated, many of whom have found help and shelter in Bratislava.

Subjects of requests for assistance from Ukrainian cities range from repairs to critical infrastructure to financial aid, ambulances, buses, and summer camps for children.

To improve both the quality and the volume of this diversified assistance at city level, we have designed a ‘matchmaking’ platform. Ukrainian cities will enter their needs and requests into the system in order of priority. Donor cities will be able to continuously check if they are able to meet some of the requests or record in the system how they can help in other ways.

We hope that the new platform will encourage other cities to join this initiative. (…) I am glad that our V4 capitals – Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, and Bratislava – are setting an example for others. 

The Mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, signed an agreement with Vitali Klitschko on the donation of ten old Warsaw subway trains: “This is important support for our friends in Kyiv. In Warsaw, we have phased out those trains. In Kyiv, where this model is still in operation, they will be of great help, even if only as a source of parts for repairs. 

The “Pact of Free Cities” was initially an initiative of Budapest’s mayor, the left-wing environmentalist Gergely Karácsony, who won Budapest back from Fidesz in 2019. When it was created at the end of 2019, this alliance of big cities was meant to be a sort of alternative V4 project, bringing together progressive, Euro-enthusiastic mayors of the four countries’ capitals who were all in opposition to their respective governments, which represented a more conservative and Eurosceptic brand. The cooperation pact was initially signed in Budapest on the premises of the Central European University (CEU, the private university founded by George Soros, which has never been expelled from Budapest, in spite of the fake news propagated by the Western press), a symbolic location testifying to a common vision of the four mayors in favour of an “open society” and progress. Since then, dozens of cities have joined the Pact, which is dedicated to “fighting for progressive values and against nationalist populism”. Kyiv, Los Angeles, Taipei, Paris, and Barcelona, among others, are all members of the “Pact of Free Cities”.