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    French transport minister visits Ukraine to address infrastructure needs



    French Transport Minister Clément Beaune in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 21, 2023.

    Clément Beaune, France’s transport minister, began a three-day visit to Ukraine on Friday, April 21, the first since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February 2022.

    After a visit to the port and the central train station of Odesa, on the Black Sea, Beaune headed to Kyiv for a meeting with Yulia Svyrydenko, Ukraine’s minister of economic development.

    On Saturday and Sunday, the French minister is to continue meeting with Ukrainian officials to present them with “a very concrete message of support,” Beaune told The world. For if the military aid of France to the country at war is “very important,” the civil support, “including in the war effort,” is, there too, “vital.”

    After a night spent in Moldova, Beaune crossed the Ukrainian border in the early morning to reach the port of Odesa. On site, he was able to meet the teams of French shipping giant CMA CGM and witness the loading of a grain ship.

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    Much of Ukraine’s grain is exported from the three ports of the large southern Ukrainian city since an agreement between Russia and Ukraine under the aegis of the United Nations (UN) and Turkey was reached in late July last year to allow cargo ships to cross the Black Sea.

    “Since then, the Ukrainians have managed to deliver 30 million tons of grain through the ‘solidarity corridors’ at sea,” Beaune said. “This makes it possible for an exporting sector to survive and for a number of countries that are vitally dependent on it to benefit from their deliveries.” Beaune also visited the central station of Odesa in order to praise the work of the Ukrainian railway agents.

    The former junior minister for Europe was keen to visit the war-torn country to present new aid measures for the crucial transport sector. Another aspect of the visit is the reconstruction, which lingers over a longer timeframe. The presence of French President Emmanuel Macron’s special envoy for the reconstruction of Ukraine, Pierre Heilbronn, was instructive in this respect.

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    In its latest report, the World Bank estimates the cost of reconstruction and recovery in Ukraine after a year of conflict at €383 billion. The transport sector alone accounts for 22% of the sum.

    Before visiting Ukraine, Beaune met with a number of French business leaders to share with them the needs and demands of the Ukrainian authorities. Before coming here, I was able to identify very concrete supplementary assistance that can be mobilized quickly,” Beaune said. “We are speaking about buses, generators, and pilot boats which allow evacuating cereals and freight out of the port of Odesa.”

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