Iceland to Increase Funding for Ukraine

bjarni benediktsson

In a meeting of the cabinet of ministers yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Bjarni Benediktsson introduced a motion of Iceland’s support for Ukraine from 2024 to 2028. Funding for Ukraine will be increased from last year and Iceland’s funding will be on par with what the other Nordic countries have pledged.

“Today marks two years since the beginning of Russia’s illegal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” Bjarni said in a press release from his ministry. “This war of aggression is the most serious security threat facing Europe since the end of World War II. A long-term plan of support will mark a turning point demonstrating our serious commitment to support the struggle of the Ukrainian people for as long as necessary.”

Broad political support expected

Should the motion pass, a minimum amount of funding for Ukraine will be secured for the next few years, even if funding will be determined in the annual budget each year. The motion will be presented to all parties in Alþingi, Iceland’s parliament, and in the Foreign Affairs Committee in the coming days.

The press release goes on to say that support for Ukraine in Alþingi has remained strong across party lines. “Ukrainians have been fighting for our fundamental values for two years now,” Bjarni said. “Iceland’s sovereignty is based on compliance and respect for international law by all, thus it is no hyperbole to state that our long-term support for the security and independence of Ukraine is also a long-term support for the security and independence of Iceland.”

Iceland Condemns Russian Treatment of Alexei Navalny

Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Iceland’s Foreign Ministry called the director of the Russian embassy in Iceland to a meeting yesterday due to the death of Alexei Navalny. He was told that Iceland condemns Russian authorities’ treatment of Navalny. Russia’s ambassador to Iceland was asked to leave last year following the invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign Minister blames Russian government

“It was made clear to the director that the Icelandic government condemns the Russian government’s treatment of Navalny, which led to his death last week,” reads a written response from the ministry to RÚV. Russian diplomats have been called to similar meetings in Iceland’s neighbouring countries. “The Icelandic government also condemns the Russian government’s attacks on human rights and people’s freedom, as a large number of people have been imprisoned in Russia recently following Navalny’s death,” the response continues.

Iceland’s Foreign Minister Bjarni Benediktsson tweeted about Navalny’s death last week, stating “Saddened to learn of the passing of Alexei Navalny and I offer my sincerest condolences to his family and supporters. Putin and the Russian government bear ultimate responsibility for his death.”

Cooling relations

Iceland shut down its embassy in Moscow in August 2023 and requested the Russian embassy in Iceland scale down its operations and send home its ambassador. The last time there was no Russian ambassador in Iceland was between 1948-1954. While Iceland’s Foreign Minister at the time stated that the closure did not entail a complete severing of diplomatic relations between the countries, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated it “destroys” the countries’ bilateral relations.

Russian Foreign Ministry Responds to Iceland’s Embassy Closure

Jakobsdóttir and Lavrov

Iceland’s decision to suspend operations in its Moscow embassy “destroys” the countries’ bilateral operations, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has stated according to Reuters. Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced last week that it would shut down the embassy of Iceland in Moscow on August 1 and had requested the Russian embassy in Iceland to scale down its operations and send home its ambassador. Icelandic authorities will lay off the embassy’s locally hired staff and terminate rental contracts in Moscow.

“The decision taken by the Icelandic authorities to lower the level of diplomatic relations with Russia destroys the entire range of Russian-Icelandic cooperation,” the Russian Foreign Ministry stated. “We will take this unfriendly decision into account when building our ties with Iceland in the future. All anti-Russian actions of Reykjavik will inevitably be followed by a corresponding reaction.”

The Icelandic embassy in Moscow has had seven staff members: two sent out from Iceland and five who were hired locally. Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs told Vísir that the five locally hired staff members will be laid off according to their current employment contracts. Iceland’s Ambassador to Russia Árni Þór Sigurðsson will be relocated to the Icelandic embassy in Copenhagen. The ministry also expects to terminate its rental contracts both for the embassy offices and the ambassador’s residence.

A press release from Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs stated that “[t]he decision to close down the embassy’s activities does not imply the termination of the diplomatic relationship between the countries. As soon as conditions permit, emphasis will be placed on resuming the activities of the Icelandic embassy in Moscow.”

Iceland to Close Embassy in Moscow

Minister for Foreign Affairs Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir

The embassy of Iceland in Moscow will be shut down on August 1, according to a press release from Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Icelandic authorities have also requested the Russian embassy in Reykjavík scale down its operations so there is no longer a Russian ambassador in Iceland. These changes do not mean a complete severing of diplomatic relations between Iceland and Russia, however.

Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs thanked Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, his Icelandic counterpart, for the decision to suspend operations of its embassy in Moscow and request Russia to limit the operations of its embassy in Reykjavík. “Russia must see that barbarism leads to complete isolation. I encourage other states to follow Iceland’s example,” he tweeted.

Þórdís Kolbrún told RÚV that the decision was made after extensive consideration, adding “it is not suitable for there to be so much Russian activity here in Reykjavík because of how relations are very limited and will continue to be until the Russians decide to behave in a different way than they are doing now.”

Iceland has operated an embassy in Moscow since 1944 with the exception of 1951-1953. The last time there was no Russian ambassador in Iceland was 1948-1954. “The decision to close down the embassy’s activities does not imply the termination of the diplomatic relationship between the countries,” the press release from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs states. “As soon as conditions permit, emphasis will be placed on resuming the activities of the Icelandic embassy in Moscow.”

Iceland Donates Field Hospital to Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Representatives in Alþingi have proposed a resolution to authorise the Foreign Minister to secure the purchase of a mobile emergency hospital for Ukraine.

The mobile emergency hospital would be used by injured Ukrainian soldiers and civilians affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Read more: Zelenskyy to Meet with Nordic Leaders in Helsinki

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Iceland has also accepted some 3,000 Ukrainian refugees. Iceland’s support from 2022 to 2023 for Ukraine amounts to approximately 4.5 billion ISK [$32 million, €30 million] in humanitarian and financial aid.

The hospital in question is designed to care for both wounded soldiers and civilians, and can be operated independently without connection to existing infrastructure.

Ukrainian authorities have informed Icelandic authorities of the urgent need for mobile field hospitals for wounded soldiers and have requested Iceland’s assistance in this matter. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly expressed gratitude for Iceland’s overwhelming support for Ukraine in his meetings with the Icelandic Prime Minister.

Three hospitals of this type have already been sent to Ukraine, and three more are requested. The production time for such a hospital is about six months, and the estimated cost is approximately 1.2 billion ISK [$8.6 million, €7.9 million].

Minister of Justice: Iceland Not Exempt from Russian Espionage

Dómsmálaráðherra Ríkisstjórn Alþingi Jón Gunarsson

The Minister of Justice says there is “no reason to believe that the Russians, and other dictatorial nations, are not engaged in espionage in Iceland, as elsewhere,” RÚV reports. The minister’s bill on the increased powers of the police has been submitted to Parliament, although there seems to be little interest in the establishment of an Icelandic intelligence service.

No basis yet for the establishment of an Icelandic intelligence service

Yesterday, Runólfur Þórhallsson, Deputy Superintendent of the National Commissioner’s Analytical Department, stated that it was “very likely that Russia and other dictatorial countries are conducting illegal intelligence gathering here in Iceland – as elsewhere.”

Runólfur observed that the Nordic countries had established special security services to investigate and work against illegal information gathering and to carry out supervision; in order to conduct such supervision in Iceland, a similar service needed to be established.

Addressing the subject in an interview with RÚV, Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson stated that there was no reason to believe that Iceland was exempt from foreign espionage:

“There’s no reason to believe that we aren’t on the same boat as the Nordic countries in this regard, or when it comes to organised crime in general, for espionage is nothing more than an aspect of organised crime. On the other hand, however, there has, perhaps, not been a sound basis for establishing an intelligence service in Iceland akin to those of our neighbouring countries. This is why we’ve now been bolstering that arm of the police that deals with organised crime, and, thus, these matters being discussed, as best we can,” Jón Gunnarsson stated.

Childish to think that Iceland is exempt

Jón also stated that his bill on the increased powers of the police is being reviewed by Parliament. Current legal powers severely limit the police’s ability to counter espionage.

“This bill of mine has been somewhat controversial to some people, but it has progressed very modestly and is nothing close to what is customary with the intelligence services of our neighbouring countries. But, of course, it is just childish to think that we’re somehow exempt. We need to equip our police in such a way that they can at least work in full confidence and with the necessary authorisation required to collaborate with these neighbouring countries so as to inform them of these cases, and others, related to organised crime.”

When asked if he thought it was simply “a matter of time” that an intelligence service was established in Iceland, Jón remarked that we would “have to see how things developed.” Iceland relied on its allied nations, with whom it collaborated in matters of defence and within the political field – given that intelligent services in these nations were afforded a much greater authority than the police in Iceland.

Scant understanding for critical voices

“I’d like to reiterate that it is necessary for us to come to terms with the changes that have taken place around us in recent years. We must respond to these changes. The first step is to strengthen the police in this regard, that is, to afford our police the opportunity to be able to fully collaborate with the police of other countries.”

As RÚV notes, this is why Jón has a “scant understanding of the critical voices that have been heard regarding his bill.” In his opinion, it is crucial that these questions are dealt with in the spring. He added that his bill was meant to protect the security of the state and that espionage falls under that category.

Zelenskyy to Meet with Nordic Leaders in Helsinki

Katrín Jakobsdóttir Bjarni Benediktsson Sigurður Ingi Ráðherra

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy will be present at a one-day Nordic Summit in Helsinki today. During the summit, Zelenskyy will also attend bilateral meetings with the prime ministers of the four guest countries, including Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

Discussing Russia’s “war of aggression in Ukraine”

Earlier this morning, the Office of the President of the Republic of Finland announced that Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy would attend a one-day Nordic-Ukrainian summit, as hosted by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at the president’s residence.

As noted by Mbl.is, Selenskyy’s arrival in Finland has been shrouded in secrecy, which has inspired extensive security measures in Helsinki. The summit will be attended by President Niinistö and President Zelenskyy, as well as Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson, Prime Minister of Norway Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen, and Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

As noted in the press release, the leaders will discuss “Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, the Nordic countries’ continued support for Ukraine, the developments in Ukraine’s relationship with EU and NATO, and Ukraine’s initiative for a just peace. These official discussions will be followed by a joint press conference. The Nordic Prime ministers will also have bilateral meetings with President Zelenskyy.”

Finnish President Niinistö will have his first meeting with Zelensky before noon.

Finland’s first meeting with fellow nations as a NATO member

As noted by RÚV, the summit is noteworthy not only in light of Zelensky’s attendance – but also because Finland is now talking to its fellow nations for the first time as an official NATO member. Finland joined NATO on April 4, and with that the alliance’s border with Russia more than doubled.

Sweden remains the only attendee who remains outside NATO; Sweden applied for membership, alongside Finland, after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Two weeks until the Council of Europe Summit in Reykjavík

As previously reported, there are less than two weeks until the summit of the Council of Europe will be held in Reykjavík. It remains to be seen whether Zelenskyy will attend.

It’s also been about a month and a half since PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir, alongside Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, attended a meeting with Zelenskyy in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. At the end of the visit, Katrín stated, among other things, that she had discussed what could be achieved with the summit in Reykjavík.

Russian Trawler Suspected of Espionage

capelin loðna fishing

At least one of the 50 Russian ships suspected of conducting espionage in the legal waters of the Nordic countries is believed to have also operated in Iceland, reports Morgunblaðið.

A team of journalists from Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark have recently produced a documentary which proves the involvement of Russian fishing vessels in acts of espionage carried out in the territorial waters of the Scandinavian nations. According to the latest information, one of the ships in question, Melkart 5, also operated in Icelandic waters.

Melkart 5 is suspected of being connected to a damaged underwater cable between Norway and Svalbard. It has also been shown to carry specialized military communications equipment.

The trawler, operated by Murman Seafood, has a history of operating in Iceland. Melkart 5 visited the Akureyri drydock in 2020, when it was painted, repaired, and its main engine replaced. The latest work by the investigative team of journalists alleges that Melkart 5 dragged a trawl door along the seabed to damage the underwater cable. Due to unclear legislation, the case was dropped. The ship’s management denies all accusations.

Some 50 Rusian ships are suspected of such espionage actions, but the full list has not been published.

In February of last year, representatives of the Norwegian Coast Guard, the police, and the customs authorities also went on board the Russian yacht Ragnar while it was docked in Northern Norway. Owned by Vladimir Strzhalkovski, a former KGB official and acquaintance of President Putin, the vessel was equipped with a helipad, ice-breaker hull, and docking facilities for a small reconnaissance submarine. Ragnar was suspected of espionage actions and refused fuel by the Norwegians. Other Russian-operated vessels have also been shown to spend large amounts of time in waters of strategic significance to Norway.

At the time of writing, Melkart 5 is currently docked in Tórshavn in the Faroe Islands. Although evidence suggests that Melkart 5 may not have been the only Russian-operated ship to have engaged in espionage while in Icelandic waters, definitive proof has not yet emerged.

Velvet Terrorism

 

“Resistance is always a choice. And there are always new moments for resistance. It’s not just in the prisons, it’s in everyday life.”

UP IN ARMS

Visiting the exhibition Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia, you enter a dark room. You are pleasantly greeted by a man sitting at a fold-up table spread with pamphlets and copies of Maria Alyokhina’s 2017 prison memoir, Riot Days. To your right: a video of a woman in a baggy, black dress fills one wall, blonde hair curling messily out from beneath a red balaclava. Standing above a portrait of President Vladimir Putin, she carefully lifts her dress and pisses all over him.

This is the first-ever museum exhibition of Pussy Riot’s work, and it’s being held at Reykjavík’s Marshall House. Maria Alyokhina has been through much to be here. When, on February 24, 2022 President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of a “special military operation” in Ukraine, Maria, a founding member of Pussy Riot, watched the announcement from a detention centre on the outskirts of Moscow. Less than a year later, she and fellow members of the feminist punk band and activist group have created a visual omnibus of their political actions, a comprehensive critique of Putin’s Russia, in Reykjavík.

Pussy Riot is in theory a punk band, but their best-known works are acts of political protest and performance art. They first came to prominence in 2012, when they performed Punk Prayer, a frantic 60-second sonic protest at the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, in which Maria and her companions exhorted the Virgin Mary to become a feminist. Indeed, the exhibition’s title, Velvet Terrorism, comes from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow’s description of the protest. Several of the band’s members, including Maria (also known as Masha), served time in Siberian penal colonies for the performance. The charges: hooliganism and “religious hatred.”

“I think that art is basically asking the question: 

Do we want to live like this, or not?”

OUT FOR DELIVERY

“I was concerned that all of this visual material might die in the exhibit,” Masha tells me. “We didn’t want any frames on anything.” It’s never easy to incorporate the provocative, rebellious spirit of performance art into the sometimes-musty confines of art museums. In lieu of frames, glitter and brightly-coloured tape decorate the walls, evoking a teenage girl’s poster collage. Nothing here is permanent, the entire exhibition ready to be torn down about as quickly as it was put up.

Among the many images and videos of their diverse political actions, one stands out. Two women, Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, are dressed in blue and white sarafans, a traditional Russian women’s costume, accessorised with fishnet stockings and black boots. The scene resembles idyllic depictions of maypole dances, except the streamers are replaced with yellow plastic police tape and the two women are tying up a faceless, masked policeman. Nadya stares at the camera.

After politely pacing among many such images, visitors are finally challenged by a prison guard. To get through to the end of the exhibit, you must surrender your shoelaces, belts, phones, and keys and place them all in a grey, plastic tray. Your personal belongings disappear through a slot in the wall. It’s unclear where they’ve gone.

You are ushered into a small room, shuffling to not trip over your now-loose shoes. In front of you: a closed door. Above: an intercom, broadcasting in Russian. On either side: institutionally grey-green walls. It doesn’t help that the door is rather heavy and stiff. It takes some time to realise that freedom is only a quick, violent push away.

Hanging on the opposite side of the door is a bright-green uniform complete with an insulated backpack, the kind used by online food ordering and delivery services. This is the uniform that Masha used to escape from Russia in April 2022.

“We transported the uniform all the way from Moscow,” Masha says. “It took two months and got here just two weeks before the start of the exhibition. We never really know what’s going to happen to us, so it’s better for it to be here.” Police surveillance is a daily reality for her and her friends (you can always tell Kremlin agents from their bad taste in footwear, she says). And since 2021, Masha has been picked up by authorities for various trumped-up charges, including violating COVID-19 quarantine. For the past two years, she has been under intermittent house arrest, but the decision to flee only came when the authorities announced that she was to serve the rest of her sentence in a penal colony. Having once served out a sentence in Siberia, she had no desire to return.

“Sometimes we need to go out on an errand or whatever, so I came up with this idea to buy the uniform,” Masha explains. “The political police, you know, are quite stupid. The lower-level guys will be tasked with just monitoring you entering and exiting your home, and they often don’t notice much else.” With the help of the delivery uniform and Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, Masha was able to make it to the Belorussian border, and ultimately to Iceland via Lithuania. Ragnar’s exact involvement is left unstated, one of many cul-de-sacs in our conversation for the protection and anonymity of her friends. 

Despite its dramatic nature, Masha is quite nonchalant about her disguised escape. “The most difficult thing,” she tells me, “is making the decision. Once you’ve made your decision, the rest is just practical.”

“Arrests can be fun.”

EARLY ACTIVISM

This decisiveness has defined Masha’s life from an early age. “I was quite a problematic child,” Masha says. This isn’t a surprise. “I changed schools a lot, I couldn’t get along with my teachers. The way they teach in Russia, it’s still Soviet-era patriotism.” It was shortly after completing secondary school that Masha truly became politically conscious. And it wasn’t contact with dissident students in Moscow or radical reading groups – but the destruction of a beloved forest – that led to the leap of faith.

“I read that the state was going to clear Utrish Nature Reserve for an oligarch’s mansion,” she explains. Located on the Abrau peninsula along the Black Sea, only a narrow strait separates Utrish from Crimea. Which at that time was still Ukrainian. Utrish Nature Reserve is also the only part of Russia to have a Mediterranean climate: a little slice of paradise. “It’s a very unique place that should be protected,” Masha says. “I hitchhiked there after finishing school. At the time, I didn’t know anything about activism. I wrote to some organisations like Greenpeace and WWF and asked what I could do. And then I just picked up my backpack and went.” 

She started to collect signatures to save the nature reserve from development, and when she returned to Moscow, she wrote again to Greenpeace and WWF asking what more she could do. From there, things started to snowball: she organised small demonstrations, filmed political actions, and collaborated with others. It was also during this time, as a student at Moscow State University, that Masha met Nadya. Together, they would become two of Pussy Riot’s founding members.

 

PUNK POETRY

Masha’s problems with authority continued at university. “I was studying literature, and all of my professors were writers and poets. They knew what was going on, why were they not in the streets?” While some in the ivory tower agonise over the relationship between art and political commitment, for Pussy Riot’s project, the interconnectedness of the two is quite simply axiomatic. Art and activism at the same time.

For Masha, “punk isn’t a genre of music. It’s a way of life.” And this “way of life” isn’t merely an aesthetic identity. It has to do with asking the authorities difficult questions, being willing to come into real confrontation with the state. This is something that Masha is deeply familiar with, having spent a total of two years of her life in prison, and about the same amount of time under house arrest. “I think art has a responsibility to change the norm,” she explains. “So many things that are normal now, that we take for granted, are still very new. It was totally impossible to imagine gay pride within some people’s lifetimes. You could end up in a mental hospital. Some people had to sacrifice themselves to change the norm. I think that art is basically asking the question: Do we want to live like this, or not?”

Since those early days of activism, Masha and her companions have toured and lectured throughout the world, led major demonstrations, and, of course, made themselves enemy number one in Putin’s Russia.

FACE OF RESISTANCE

A common motif in Pussy Riot’s visual vocabulary is the moment of arrest. This moment, the frequent conclusion to many of their actions, could be seen as an integral part of the performance, the standing ovation to a virtuoso protest. 

In one such image, from a demonstration of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Cossacks in fur-lined ushankas lash Masha and her companions with heavy horse whips. There is a curious detachment, as if neither party particularly wants to be here. The action takes place in the passive voice; there is whipping being done. Masha and her friends stand there stoically disassociated from the blows, while the Cossacks, half-bored, wait for 5:00 PM to roll around, like the rest of us. In other images, Masha’s face is illuminated by a saintly calm. Looking at the camera as hulking, armed guards take her away, she resembles nothing so much as the Pietà.

“Of course, it’s stupid to resist these large men with guns,” Masha says. The saintly appearance is, in a very practical sense, a signal to these violent men that she’s no longer resisting. But her calm passivity in these images also casts absurdity on the proceedings, men in special forces gear surrounding the diminutive Masha. “Even these men are just working a job,” Masha says. “There are definitely some true sadists who enjoy the full extent of their power, but they’re not the majority. The majority are tired. They want to go home to their wife and kids. And just like everyone else, they’re not being paid enough for what they do.” In some of these images, however, the attentive viewer might catch something else: the shadow of a smile. “Arrests,” after all, “can be fun.”

And Masha’s defiance extends well beyond the moment of her arrest. “The penal colonies [often referred to as ‘the zone’], are still the same as in the Soviet Union,” Masha says. Prisoners live on strictly regimented schedules, sewing military uniforms for slave wages. During her time in the penal colony, where she was subjected to a total of five months of solitary confinement, Masha maintained contact with human rights observers. Through learning her rights and hunger striking, she even successfully mounted a campaign to reform conditions from the inside. “I started to defend myself,” Masha remembers. “I asked for a copy of the prison regulations. Many don’t know this, but they have to give you the regulations if you ask for them. I started to read the regulations and I found out it was them breaking the law, not me.” 

But it wasn’t easy. During all of this, guards would sometimes break script, asking her why she didn’t make life easy for herself. Why she always had to take the hard way. But, as Masha tells me: “Resistance is always a choice. And there are always new moments for resistance. It’s not just in the prisons, it’s in everyday life. I knew that if I submitted in prison, even when I regained my freedom, I wouldn’t be free.”

 

THIS WAY: WAR

Over the last year, pedestrians in downtown Reykjavík may have noticed some new graffiti in several locations. Over a field of blue, an arrow points east. War: 3,963 km. Beside the arrow, a black bomb crashes through a house.

An island on the edge of the Arctic Circle, Iceland has always been on the periphery of world history. But it is Iceland’s marginality that has often thrust it into the centre of things as well. Its Mid-Atlantic disposition made it an important shipping lane during the Second World War. It was likewise considered a sufficiently central, yet neutral, location for the famous nuclear disarmament talks between Reagan and Gorbachev in 1986. Iceland’s peculiar position has also made it home to high-profile asylum seekers and political refugees over the years, most famously the controversial chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer, who called Iceland his home from 2005 until his death in 2008.

It makes sense, then, that Pussy Riot’s first-ever exhibition took place at the Marshall House. The house, built in the post-war years of development under the Marshall Plan, was originally a fishmeal factory. The Marshall Plan’s goal was to develop post-war Europe, especially Germany, to keep it within the American sphere of influence. Today, the Marshall House is home to Kling og Bang, i8 Gallery, and several other spaces for contemporary art. Iceland, so far away from it all at first glance, is not so insular after all. “War,” Masha says, “is always closer than it looks.”

“War is always closer than it looks.”

PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir to Meet Zelenskyy Today

katrín jakobsdóttir ukraine zelenskyy

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland, is set to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials today, March 14.

With the European Council set to meet in Reykjavík this May, Katrín has previously stated that it’s key for Icelandic leaders to meet with Ukrainian officials, given the central role the Ukrainian conflict will play in the summit.

Prime Minister’s Office Iceland

Katrín and other Icelandic officials were shown some of the signs of the conflict this morning and will meet with Zelenskyy in the afternoon. Katrín and her entourage were also seen laying commemorative wreaths for the victims of the war.

The Prime Minister stated to Morgunblaðið: “We were first shown ruins in Borodianka, apartment buildings that have been blown up, and then we went to talk to some of the residents. Then the road led to Bucha, where newspaper photographs of the mass graves found there are on display. There, we met the mayor Anatolij Fedorúk, who explained the situation to us […] It’s a completely different thing to see this yourself and meet these people, who have been through this horror.”

Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, was the site of a civilian massacre by Russian troops during the initial invasion in 2022. In April of last year, photographs emerged in the press that indicated that some 400-500 civilians had been summarily executed by Russian forces. The massacre at Bucha has been identified as a likely war crime in the conflict.

katrín jakobsdóttir ukraine zelenskyy
Prime Minister’s Office Iceland

Now, Katrín is on her way to meet directly with Zelenskyy. Among her retinue is also Foreign Minister  Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir.

A major item on the agenda will be Zelenskyy’s participation in the upcoming meeting of the European Council. Although his participation is confirmed, it is not clear yet whether he will be attending remotely, or whether he will come to Iceland for the summit.

Katrín stated further: “We will be reviewing the upcoming meeting in May, as Ukraine will be the focus there. The involvement of the European Council will potentially comprise of assessing damages, possible compensation for Ukraine, and so on.”