Doing this visit to Ukraine slightly differently, Marcelo has a strong security presence around him, and is moving fast. Image: Lusa
Doing this visit to Ukraine slightly differently, Marcelo has a strong security presence around him, and is moving fast. Image: Lusa

President becomes first head of state to enter Ukraine trenches

Only in Ukraine a few hours, and already doing things differently

The president of Portugal has broken new ground in terms of visits by heads of State to Ukraine: he has entered an improvised trench in Moschun – a town ‘decimated during the Russian occupation.

Marcelo has only been in the country for a few hours, but it’s clear he is wasting no time in getting around.

“This has never happened before! He’s the first to do this,” commented Lesya Arkadievna, the deputy governor for the Kyiv region, in astonishment when she saw Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa enter the trench.

Moschun is on the outskirts of Kyiv. “Almost nothing was left standing while Russian troops pulled out” of the area, writes Lusa, commenting that the town’s recovery has barely begun.

Marcelo reportedly “did not hesitate” in entering the trench, where he had to walk almost in a crouch.

“I’ve been here with several presidents and ministers, and none have done this,” Lesya Arkadievna continued.

“Locals and members of the regional administration watched with some surprise”, adds Lusa.

Emerging, with dirt on his blazer, Marcelo remarked that it was “reminiscent of the trenches of the First World War” – which of course is the irony of much of this conflict.

A short conversation with locals “gave the president of Portugal one certainty”, Lusa continues: if Russian invaders come again even “children are prepared and know how to defend themselves…” albeit, this in itself is tragic, as children should not have to live with this kind of knowledge nor these kind of memories.

It is early stages yet; the Ukrainians haven’t had the experience of Portugal’s head of State on national territory before, but it is very possible Marcelo will continue to surprise.

This far he has already visited Bucha – another town martyrised in the conflict, where he pledged Portugal’s absolute support in trying to seek justice. What happened in this town where Russian soldiers murdered so many civilians was “very strong, very shocking, very inhuman”, he said.

And as this text went up online, Marcelo was already being photographed in Irpin – another landmark of horrors committed in the name of Russia’s illegal invasion.

In between the various ‘moments’ of this first day, Marcelo has already found the time to talk to PCP communist leader Paulo Raimundo (on the party’s continued oblique stance on this conflict) and address the dismal story coming out of Loures hospital, where an elderly man was left to die on a stretcher, when he should have been transferred for treatment to another hospital.

But his thoughts are clearly centred on Ukraine, where he commented: “In a way, the sentiment one gets is that if the feeling of Ukrainian national pride was once strong, since the invasion it has become a great deal stronger”.


Continuing with his schedule today, Marcelo has said that any discussion on the future of Ukraine that excludes the issue of the Crimean peninsula is “noise” disguised as support for the population of the invaded country.

“It is not possible to separate the issue of Crimea from the total invasion of Ukraine’s territory. Any attempt, subjective or objective, to separate the two issues represents not help, not support for the Ukrainian population, but noise that is unnecessary,” he said at the opening of the “Crimea Platform” summit in Kyiv.

Marcelo recalled that the aim of this platform “is the same since the start: never to let people forget Crimea”.

All those involved in this issue must remember that the goal is “the recovery of the territorial integrity” of Ukraine.

Reinforcing the Portuguese position, he said: “Our border is Ukraine’s border.”

Flanked by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Portugal’s head of State insisted that today’s conflict is inseparable from the invasion of Crimea in 2014 – considered to be the first moment of the violation of Ukraine’s s territorial integrity by the Russian Federation.

The President outlined three points for a “long and lasting peace” in Europe.

We cannot separate issues that cannot be separated; we can never forget that people are the reason for our common struggle for territorial integrity, sovereignty, democracy and freedom; we cannot forget that there is no freedom and democracy without social cohesion, without growth. And development means social justice, even for Crimea”.

Marcelo also called on Moscow to stop the large-scale invasion that began more than a year and a half ago with no end in sight, notwithstanding the Ukrainian counter-offensive that is taking its time: “We want Russia to withdraw its troops immediately,” he said.

Shortly before the Portuguese head of state spoke, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, labelled Marcelo’s two-day visit “historic”.

More to come over the hours before Marcelo is received by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tomorrow.