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Swiss, Ukrainian Presidents Visit War-Torn East, Inspect Humanitarian Aid

Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga speaks during a trip to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine on July 23.
Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga speaks during a trip to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine on July 23.

KYIV – Visiting Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy have visited Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, known as the Donbas, parts of which have been under the control of Russia-backed separatists since April 2014.

On July 23, during the last day of Sommaruga's three-day visit to Ukraine, the two presidents met with the governor of the Kyiv-controlled part of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, and visited the Donbas water company, according to the Ukrainian president’s website.

Zelenskiy thanked Switzerland for humanitarian aid that was used to keep the water company functioning to help avoid a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the war-torn region. The company provides drinking water to about 4 million residents of the region, including people residing in separatist-controlled districts.

The presidents also inspected a Swiss humanitarian convoy of 17 trucks with equipment and chemical reagents for purifying water under the Donbas Water project and COVID-19 medical devices for hospitals in the city of Slovyansk.

“Switzerland is, in fact, the only country that provides humanitarian assistance for people on both sides of the line of contact in eastern Ukraine. The main humanitarian projects are drinking water supplies in Donbas and delivery of medicines and medical equipment to the area,” the presidential website said.

The two presidents laid flowers at a memorial honoring employees from the water company who were killed by shelling by Russia-backed separatists.

Since April 2014, about 13,200 people have been killed in the ongoing conflict.

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