Janša says Kyiv diplomatic mission will be led by chargé d’affaires with full powers

Photo: STA

Brdo pri Kranju – The diplomatic mission that Slovenia will send to Ukraine will operate at the level of chargé d’affaires and will have full powers for the duration of the emergency situation, said Prime Minister Janez Janša on Wednesday. He did not reveal though who the chargé d’affaires will be, but he did say several volunteers had come forward.

“I’m happy that as soon as we published a call we got applications from volunteers from different sectors who have experience because they had already worked there,” Janša said, responding to a question about the mission in Ukraine at a press conference in Brdo pri Kranju presenting municipal projects.

Asked whether the team would be led by Bojan Pograjc, a state secretary in the prime minister’s office, as media reported today, he did not respond.

The Foreign Ministry said in a press release today that an interim chargé d’affaires would be sent to Kyiv to “perform diplomatic tasks based on an assessment of the situation” in line with the foreign affairs act.

It denied media reports of an “armed, military diplomatic mission”.

Citing unofficial sources, TV Slovenija and the news web portal N1 later reported that Lt-Col Boštjan Lesjak would be heading to Ukraine as interim chargé d’affaires. According to N1, he served as a civilian member of the OSCE observation mission in Ukraine following Russia’s occupation of Crimea in 2014.

Since he is being posted to Ukraine by the Foreign Ministry and not the Defence Ministry he will need to be transferred before the departure. Formally this means Lesjak is again leaving for Ukraine as a civilian rather than a military person, reports N1. According to TV Slovenija, Lesjak has been an employee with the Foreign Ministry for three days already.

Janša told reporters at Brdo that Slovenia also had candidates who could lead an EU mission in Kyiv if the bloc decided to take this step. Talks on this are still under way at the EU level, he said.

Janša announced on Sunday evening that Slovenia was going to send its diplomats back to Ukraine expectedly this week after they left Kyiv when Russia invaded its western neighbour. Foreign Minister Anže Logar confirmed this on Monday, saying the diplomats would return to Ukraine on a voluntary basis and would be based in Kyiv.

Web portal 24ur.com cited unofficial but reliable sources in reporting this morning that no volunteers for the diplomatic mission could be found at the Foreign Ministry, so the government turned to the Defence Ministry to find an officer, a lieutenant colonel, who is to be temporarily transferred to the diplomatic service, hired at the Foreign Ministry and sent to Kyiv with a team.

Defence Minister Matej Tonin subsequently said he was happy that the Defence Ministry boasted “brave people who are willing to take chances to help the Ukrainian people”.

The opposition responded to the news about a team from the Defence Ministry by saying that sending an “armed diplomatic mission” to the Ukrainian capital amid war would be an “arbitrary and dangerous” move.

Slovenian Ambassador to Ukraine Tomaž Mencin left Kyiv as the war started, like most ambassadors from other European countries. The diplomats who are still in Ukraine have mostly moved to Lviv. Only the representatives of Poland and the Vatican are said to be still in Kyiv.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the Slovenian ambassador has been at a temporary location in Poland near the Ukrainian border since 21 March, conducting all his diplomatic duties from there. These include providing consular assistance and maintaining contacts with the diplomatic corps.

The ministry said that in recent weeks the Slovenian diplomacy had been focussing on stopping the military aggression in Ukraine and helping in the face of human tragedies. It expressed the wish that Slovenian politicians would remain united in condemning the Russian aggression and that the war would not become a part of election campaign.