Image: Lusa

Portuguese nationals setting out for Ukraine

Government renews appeal: “DO NOT GO….”

The mixed messaging that has gone on over Portuguese nationals setting out for Ukraine; the fact that even President Marcelo has said ‘nothing really can be done about it’; the fact that a judge seems to believe it is every citizen’s right to choose, has put the government in a total pickle.

Defence minister João Gomes Cravinho came down hard earlier this month, saying military and former military were ‘prohibited’ from leaving Portugal to support counterparts in Ukraine.

His announcement appears to have fallen on deaf ears. Men are still leaving. 

One Portuguese still fighting in Ukraine after escaping the attack on the Yavoriv military base close to the Polish border recently has advised anyone joining the fight to ‘keep quiet about it’, present themselves as ‘volunteers’ and at least try to inform consular authorities.

Yesterday in Brussels, foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva made a point of saying he wanted to “renew the government’s appeal that no Portuguese citizen should go to Ukraine while the security situation in the country remains as difficult as it is”.

It is a “generic recommendation that applies to everyone”, he said, but “a fortiori (particularly) to those who intend to go to Ukraine claiming a quality that they themselves designate as being combatants.

This is not the Portuguese way of proceeding”, Mr Santos Silva insisted. “This does not correspond to the way Portugal understands its obligations to contribute to selective security, and I would like to draw attention to the fact that people in these circumstances may not be covered by the Geneva Convention, which sets out the rights of military personnel involved in armed conflict.” 

Reminding reporters that the government has been making this appeal “for many weeks”, and has managed to support “all Portuguese and Portuguese-Ukrainian citizens who, being in Ukraine, have expressed the need or the will to leave, even if only temporarily, that country”, Santos Silva said he wanted to renew “the appeal for no one to go to Ukraine at this time, for whatever reason“.

“And I wanted to renew the Portuguese government’s statement that Portugal cannot be considered affected by any initiative of any Portuguese citizen to move to Ukraine as, in inverted commas, “combatant”, because, from the Portuguese government’s side, the position is one of outright refusal of that kind of attitude,” he said.

The head of diplomacy stressed again that this type of initiative “has nothing to do with Portugal, nothing to do with the Portuguese government and nothing to do with the way in which Portugal positions itself in its own responsibilities in terms of European and international security“.

Santos Silva added that “any Portuguese citizen abroad is entitled to consular protection“, but “obviously, in circumstances of war such as those experienced today in Ukraine, in which we had to move our own embassy outside Ukraine, this consular protection is not guaranteed“.

Thousands of foreign fighters of various nationalities have answered the Ukrainian authorities’ call and moved to Ukraine to help the local armed forces fight the Russian army, writes Lusa today.

What stands out in this latest ‘appeal by the Portuguese government’ is that it comes on the very day EU foreign affairs ministers agreed to increase funding for the military support of Ukraine by another €500 million – taking the full amount of EU military aid to the country trying to repel a Russian invasion to €1 billion.

Put another way, Europe sees no problem with funding one side of the conflict, but Portugal doesn’t want to see its citizens physically supporting that same side.

[email protected]/ source material : Lusa