In Kyiv, French foreign minister promises to maintain Ukraine support

(Reuters) – French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne promised continued backing for Ukraine and support for defence manufacturing cooperation during a trip to Kyiv on Saturday, his first official visit since starting his new role this week.

“Russia hopes Ukraine and its supporters will get tired before them. We will not grow weaker,” Sejourne said during a press conference in the centre of the Ukrainian capital.

Kyiv is seeking to maintain flows of military and financial aid from its Western allies after nearly two years of fighting a full-scale Russian invasion.

Sejourne arrived in Kyiv hours after Russia launched 40 missiles and drones at Ukraine, something for which his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba expressed gratitude.

“I want to thank my colleague for not being stopped (from his visit) by Russia’s latest large-scale missile attack,” Kuleba said, urging France and other European countries to do more to halt the use of Western-made electronics in Russian missiles.

Sejourne added that he would work in the coming days and weeks to fix EU and bilateral legal issues to help French companies set up more military production facilities in Ukraine, without saying what these legal issues were.

Kuleba said several Ukrainian and French defence companies had already concluded deals on cooperation.

“However, the possibilities of this cooperation are far greater,” Kuleba said, calling for the localisation of manufacturing in Ukraine.

Sejourne also encouraged French companies to invest in Ukraine, mentioning the transport, energy, telecoms and water sectors.

He said he was personally convinced additional efforts were needed in terms of military assistance and that talks between the two governments would proceed in the coming weeks.

After Kyiv, his first visit abroad a day after his appointment, Sejourne is due to head to Berlin and Warsaw, saying he attached particular importance to the so-called Weimar triangle, an informal forum of discussion between France, Germany and Poland.

Sejourne’s visit came a day after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was in Kyiv to sign a new security agreement and announce an increase in military funding for Ukraine to buy drones, including surveillance, long-range strike and sea drones.

(Reporting by Max Hunder and Michel Rose; Editing by Helen Popper)