French accent on the front lines in Ukraine

In "De cara al mundo", correspondent María Senovilla analyses the current situation of the conflict and the consequences of the G7 summit
El presidente de Ucrania, Volodymyr Zelensky, es recibido por el presidente de Francia, Emmanuel Macron, a su llegada al palacio presidencial del Elíseo en París el 14 de mayo de 2023 - AFP/LUDOVIC MARIN
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is greeted by France's President Emmanuel Macron upon his arrival at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris on May 14, 2023 - AFP/LUDOVIC MARIN

Journalist and contributor to Atalayar and other media María Senovilla took to the microphones of "De cara al mundo" on Onda Madrid to analyse the situation in Ukraine and the initial reactions to the G7 meeting held in Italy, which agreed on a new aid package of 50 billion dollars more to put an end to the conflict.

G7, $50 billion credit. This is an important step by the West because it involves using the interest on Russia's frozen assets in the West to provide this loan.  

And Russia has not taken this well. Last week, it seems that steps were being taken in this direction and it was finally announced. In addition to this economic announcement, which is very important because of the amount, Zelensky has signed a major bilateral security agreement with Joe Biden at the G7 summit, and the US and Ukraine have agreed to renew US assistance, including arms supplies for Zelensky's country and the official dispatch of US trainers to Ukrainian soil. 

The US would follow in the wake of France, which was the first country to make such an announcement to send trainers to Ukrainian soil. The United States could already have personnel deployed to Ukraine to help the Ukrainians operate or instruct them in important weapons systems such as Patriot systems and other large, technically capable systems. 

This announcement has been made official, it has not been said when, but there will be US trainers on Ukrainian soil. This is very important, the agreement will be valid for 10 years, which is a good sign of US support for the country invaded by Russia, especially in view of the US elections in which Trump could return to the White House, and that causes a lot of unease among the Ukrainians; but, on the other hand, a 10-year agreement anticipates a very long war that will continue to bleed Ukraine and its citizens. 

Zelensky, for his part, interpreted the gesture as a bridge, he said, so that his country could join NATO in the future. On the other hand, we mentioned that peace summit. 


The G7 meeting with Zelensky and the agreements bring Ukraine closer to NATO. Switzerland has hosted a conference where Moscow, the aggressor, has not been invited. What are Zelensky's goals with this summit in Switzerland? 

Zelensky's aim is to further bolster the West's support for Ukraine. Because it sounds strange that Russia is not invited to a peace summit to put an end to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. And that point is causing controversy. 

Figures such as Brazil's President Lula da Silva have called it outright nonsense. China is also under fire for pressuring other countries not to participate. And the Kremlin is trying to discredit the meeting by all means.

The list of attendees was not made public precisely to avoid pressure from third parties. This is unusual for an international summit of this scale, which has brought together such a large number of participants. 

It is a good moment to show support for Ukraine once again and Zelensky is sure to try to make some progress, to take steps in the direction of Ukraine's further steps towards EU membership. Even so, we will have to wait to see what Zelensky proposes, what steps are on his agenda, in this peace formula that he has called for so that the conflict, which has been dragging on for almost two and a half years, can come to an end. 

AFP/ GIANLUIGI GUERCIA - El presidente brasileño Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (L), acompañado por la primera dama Rosangela Janja da Silva (R), llega a la Cumbre BRICS de 2023 en el Centro de Convenciones Sandton en Johannesburgo el 23 de agosto de 2023
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (L), accompanied by first lady Rosangela Janja da Silva (R), arrives at the 2023 BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on August 23, 2023 - AFP/ GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Maria, a new round of economic sanctions imposed by the West and the first repercussion is that the dollar, from being paid at 90 roubles, is paid at 200 in the first 24 hours. 

This is a historic drop in the Russian currency. No previous sanctions package has ever had this effect in Russia and the images of the last few days in the country have shown us queues of citizens at the doors of banks, queues that go straight round the banks of people trying to withdraw their money, images reminiscent of the years of the corralito in countries such as Argentina. Russian banks are now buying the dollar at 50 roubles and selling it for 200 roubles, more than twice as much as a week ago. 

This is because the new sanctions force Russia to operate in the over-the-counter market for all dollar transactions and they will not be able to participate in the common book of quotations that is available to the rest of the participants in the US market. The aim is to prevent Russia from acquiring arms manufacturing inputs through third countries. This would include materials such as chips, which are present in all new-generation weaponry, and other raw materials necessary for Russia to continue the intense pace of production it has been carrying out since the invasion began. 

Russia's arms factories operate 24 hours a day in three consecutive shifts, and there are factories dedicated to other tasks that have been converted into arms factories. It is an attempt to stop this ever-growing wheel and, although there are no data, because Russia has obviously not disclosed them, it does appear that both heavy weapons and ammunition are being manufactured to continue this large-scale invasion of the neighbouring country. 

Personas cruzan un puente destruido mientras evacuan la ciudad de Irpin, al noroeste de Kiev, durante fuertes bombardeos y bombardeos el 5 de marzo de 2022 - AFP/ARIS MESSINIS
People cross a destroyed bridge as they evacuate the town of Irpin, northwest of Kiev, during heavy shelling and bombardment on 5 March 2022 - AFP/ARIS MESSINIS

The White House is now alleging that Russia is listing Ukrainian children forcibly separated from their parents and deported on adoption websites, a scandal that revives the issue of children abducted by the Kremlin in Ukraine since the invasion began. 

The denunciation comes from the White House Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, who recalled that thousands of Ukrainian minors have been forcibly separated from their families and sent to Russian territory since this large-scale invasion began. More than a year ago, this war crime was already denounced, because it is classified as a war crime to abduct children and take them to your country.

And the data that came to light after a journalistic investigation in which media from different countries, including Spain, took part, spoke at that time of almost 20,000 children kidnapped by Russia. Their families have been fighting ever since to get them back, but very few have managed to return home. You can imagine what it must be like for them to see their children on a Russian adoption website, when they have been fighting for perhaps two or two and a bit years to get them back home.

And the worst thing of all is that this is not the only terrible story that comes to us related to this issue, because there are already several cases that have been reported on social networks of teenagers who were kidnapped when they were 16 or 17 years old, who have come of age on Russian soil and who, on turning 18, have been put in a Russian uniform and sent to the front lines to kill Ukrainians.

Las tropas españolas, como parte del programa “Misión de Entrenamiento de la Unión Europea en Mali” (EUTM Mali), han estado implicadas en el entrenamiento de brigadas malienses durante más de una década <strong>- PHOTO/X/@eutmmali1</strong>
Spanish troops, as part of the European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) programme, have been involved in training Malian brigades for more than a decade - PHOTO/X/@eutmmali1

It's terrible, that putting someone who is Ukrainian into the Russian army can have consequences. It's a form of total warfare where every circumstance and tool is used to undermine the morale of the adversaries. And our morale, a little bit down, Maria, another Spaniard killed in combat in Ukraine. Many people die, which is regrettable and we feel sorry for everyone, but in this case we are more concerned about what happened to this Spaniard. 

He was only 22 years old and had deserted from the Spanish army to join the war in Ukraine. He was serving in the Tercio de Infantería de Marina in Cádiz, asked for a three-month leave of absence last year and when he was due to rejoin in December he did not go to his post and it became known that he had asked for this leave of absence because what he wanted was to experience the war first hand and he had decided to go to fight as a volunteer combatant in Ukraine. Here in Spain he was wanted for desertion and neither his family nor his friends had had direct contact with him since December last year. 

His death has now been confirmed because the Ukrainian authorities have sent both his papers and some of his personal belongings, from which it can be deduced that they have recovered his body. Unfortunately, there is another Spaniard who is considered missing in action, who fell in Advidka and whose body has not yet been recovered. In fact, there are now six dead on Ukrainian soil since the invasion began. 

Five travelled to the country to join the Armed Forces as volunteer combatants, and then a sixth person, a Catalan aid worker, Gemma Ewald, who last year was hit by a direct missile from Russian troops in the vehicle in which she was travelling through villages very close to the front line of combat in the Bajmut region, where it was impossible to bring humanitarian aid, and where she captained one of the few NGOs that reached such dangerous places as these godforsaken villages so close to the front line of combat. One last mission that unfortunately cost her her life. 

So there are now six Spanish flags planted in Maidan. We have seen many, many times the images of that square, which is completely covered with flags, most of them Ukrainian, but there are also flags of other nationalities, and there are now six Spanish flags. 

De izquierda a derecha: el presidente del Consejo Europeo, Charles Michel, el canciller alemán, Olaf Scholz, el primer ministro canadiense, Justin Trudeau, el presidente francés, Emmanuel Macron, la primera ministra italiana, Giorgia Meloni, el presidente estadounidense, Joe Biden, el primer ministro japonés, Fumio Kishida, el primer ministro británico, Rishi Sunak, y la presidenta de la Comisión Europea, Ursula von der Leyen, posan para una foto de familia en el complejo turístico de Borgo Egnazia durante la cumbre del G7 que Italia acoge en la región de Apulia – PHOTO/Ludovic MARIN/AFP
From left to right: European Council President Charles Michel, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, US President Joe Biden, Japanese PM, Fumio Kishida, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pose for a family photo at the Borgo Egnazia resort during the G7 summit Italy is hosting in the Puglia region – PHOTO/Ludovic MARIN/AFP

María, how do you assess the decisions taken by the G7, this agreement between Ukraine and the United States, the decision to use this money and the fact that Russia is upset? Because this money is more of a morale booster, in addition to arms, salaries and maintaining the economy... but if it is more of a political boost than something that could allow Ukraine to change the outcome of the Russian offensive at a given moment, how do you evaluate it and what is this money going to be used for?  

It will be a moral boost that comes at a time when the Ukrainian people are already demanding revenge, because there are already thousands, tens of thousands of personal victims; as we were saying, this war is bleeding Ukraine dry. I do not know a single Ukrainian who does not currently have a relative or a friend who has fallen either on the front line or under Russian bombardment.   

The people are clamouring for something to be done directly against Russia. And, to give another example, which has nothing to do with money, in the case of Russian prisoners of war, those who are in Ukraine are under the protection of the Geneva Conventions and, for example, are allowed to make telephone calls to their families, while the families of Ukrainian prisoners of war do not know in most cases whether they are alive or dead, because they are incommunicado. 

And it was two years ago, two years after the fall of Azovstal, and one of the demands made at the demonstration was that telephone calls from Russian prisoners should be banned, because these are not covered by the Geneva Conventions, Ukraine allows them out of humanity and simply allows them to correspond by letter, which is what is included in these agreements. If these assets from the return of the frozen Russian assets finally reach Ukraine and are used for reconstruction, it will be doubly satisfying for the citizens. 

Hotel destruido durante un ataque con misiles rusos en Járkov - REUTERS/SOFIA GATILOVA
Hotel destroyed during Russian missile attack in Kharkov - REUTERS/SOFIA GATILOVA

How are you planning your coverage on the ground in the coming weeks?      

I will be in Ukraine again next week. We have to cover the north-eastern front line, not only Kharkov, but they are now fortifying the province of Sumy, which is the one that follows Kharkov to the north, because it seems that there are Russian sabotage groups, trying above all to divide the Ukrainian forces and mobilise troops there, so that this very long front line of more than 1,400 kilometres is weakened as much as possible at some point, so that Russia can break through there.

Since the arrival of the third brigade, they have recently detected a sudden French accent in some places, so those trainers that Macron announced are already starting to arrive on the ground. I will try to see this first hand so that I can tell you about it here, in these microphones.