Iceland President Cancels Ukraine Trip

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson cancelled a visit to Ukraine over safety concerns. The trip was scheduled for Easter Sunday, Mbl.is reports.

Security concerns

Among the events scheduled for President Guðni’s visit were a meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, president of Ukraine, followed by a ceremony for the two year anniversary of the Bucha massacre when Russian troops invaded the city. The president was to attend a conference following the ceremony.

Due to security concerns, the Ukrainian government cancelled the event. In the last few days, Russian troops have increased the number of missile and drone strikes, affecting energy infrastructure.

Presidential election coming up

President Guðni is enjoying his last few months in office, with a presidential election set for June 1. In his New Year’s Day address on January 1, he announced that he would not run again after two terms in office, totalling eight years.

Among the candidates are Baldur Þórhallsson, professor of political science, and Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of B Team, while comedian Jón Gnarr is expected to announce today whether or not he will run. Among other rumoured candidates is Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

Zelenskyy to European Council: “Is There Anything We Can’t Do?”

Reykjavík Summit

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, delivered a remote address at the Reykjavík Summit of the European Council yesterday. After Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir had formally opened the meeting, Zelenskyy related how the Ukrainian armed forces had successfully thwarted a Russian missile attack and thanked European leaders for their support.

Three primary objectives

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir opened the Reykjavík Summit of the European Council at the Harpa  Music and Conference Hall yesterday. She began by laying down the agenda for the meeting, stating that the summit had three primary objectives: to reiterate support for Ukraine, to renew commitments to human rights, and to take on challenging tasks around the world.

“Standing by our values,” Katrín summed up.

Katrín also struck a somewhat ominous tone following her preamble: “We are not gathered here to celebrate but in the shadow of war. Russia’s attack on Ukraine is the most serious attack on peace and security in Europe since World War II. In addition to massive casualties, it has led to bloodbaths, rapes, and murders of civilians.”

Katrín then addressed Ukrainians and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy: “We have enormous respect for your determination to fight back. We will continue to stand with you,” Katrín declared, prior to once again calling on Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine as a “first step to end the war.”

“This senseless war on our continent goes against all the values ​​we united around when we founded this Council; it is a serious attack against the values ​​that make Europe something bigger than just a continent but a common cause.” On Monday, it was reported that Parliament had proposed a resolution to authorise the Foreign Minister to secure the purchase of a mobile emergency hospital for Ukraine.

Zelenskyy “takes the stage”

Following Katrín’s opening remarks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the audience remotely from Ukraine. He began by relating how Ukraine’s air defence system had intercepted 18 Russian missiles of various types – including types that have been deemed unstoppable – on the night after Monday.

Zelenskyy added that no one had died in the Russian airstrikes and referred to the air defence operation as a “historical result.” He then thanked European leaders for their part in strengthening the country’s air defence system. Zelenskyy also noted that the success of the night would not have been possible a year ago.

“Is there anything we can’t do?”

“If we are able to do this, is there anything we can’t do when we are united – and determined to protect lives? The answer is that we in unity will give 100% in any field when we have a rule to protect our people – and our Europe,” Zelenskyy observed.

Despite this historical result, the Ukrainian president admitted that much remained to be done, given the size of Ukraine’s territory. In order to make the success of the night a rule throughout the country, the country’s air defence system would need to be further improved. The president then called for missiles, fighter jets, and other weapons.

“100% should be our benchmark. We must give 0% to the aggressor. 100% of the success of defence operations is guaranteed by weapons and training of our soldiers, and I thank everyone who strengthens our defence,” Zelenskky remarked.

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.”

 

Zelenskyy Gifted Icelandic Lopapeysa from Foreign Minister

Icelandic sweater for Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was gifted an Icelandic sweater (i.e. lopapeysa) by Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs on Sunday. “I’m proud and honoured,” the designer of the sweater told Iceland Review this morning.

“A strange request”

Writing on Facebook yesterday, Icelandic singer Salka Sól described an unusual phone call that she received from the Assistant to the Minister for Foreign Affairs recently:

“I was asked to knit, for the President of Ukraine, an Icelandic lopapeysa, which the President would receive as a gift from the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I couldn’t say no to such a request. I called my collaborator Sjöfn Kristjánsdóttir, and together we knitted two lopapeysur over the space of five days with good help from Eygló (Gísladóttir). Zelenskyy received the sweaters on Sunday … we hope that he’ll be spotted wearing them soon; most of all, however, we hope that the war will end.”

In an interview with Iceland Review this morning, designer Sjöfn Kristjánsdóttir echoed Salka’s sentiments: it was the most unusual request that she had received.

“We were very surprised, but at the same time, incredibly proud and honoured to be handed this assignment. Zelenskyy is an incredible person, whom we have watched – like the rest of the world – from the sidelines. To be able to contribute, on behalf of the Icelandic nation, is amazing; it’s something that I’ll never forget.”

As noted by Sjöfn, the Icelandic lopapeysa is a legally protected product, having received a Designation of Origin status from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority in 2020; sweaters with the traditional decorative pattern can only be labelled as “Icelandic sweaters” if they are knitted by hand in Iceland using Icelandic wool. “This sweater meets all the criteria,” Sjöfn observed, adding that producing two sweaters in the space of just five days was a lot of work.

“Of course, when two hyperactive women come together – they decide to make two sweaters. We knitted incessantly. I had a sick child at home; I made good use of sleepless nights.”

Witnessing the destruction firsthand

As noted in an article on Mbl.is, Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún, alongside other foreign ministers from the Nordic and Baltic countries, met with Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian ministers on Sunday.

The ministers discussed the situation in Ukraine, with representatives from the latter country calling for continued support. The ministers from the Nordic and Baltic countries also acquainted themselves firsthand with the damages wrought by the Russian military and laid a wreath of flowers in honour of the victims of The Holodomor (the Great Famine), which cost millions of Ukrainians their lives between 1932-1933.

“It’s important to witness the conditions of the Ukrainian capital with one’s own eyes,” Þórdís Kolbrún was quoted as saying in a press release on the government’s website, “even if our visit was brief. One is, first and foremost, faced with the terrible consequences of Russia’s incessant attacks on the country’s infrastructure. Keeping the electricity on, during the intense and tangible winter cold, is a constant battle: everything is covered in snow and the frost is biting.”

Ukraine
Salka Sól, Þórdís Kolbrún, and Sjöfn Kristjánsdóttir

“Góðan dag, this is Volodymyr from Kyiv”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke directly to the Icelandic Parliament and nation today in a virtual address broadcast in the chamber of Alþingi. In his speech, Zelenskyy underlined the centuries-old ties between the two countries and urged Iceland to continue supporting Ukraine in the ongoing conflict, saying that “the size of a country is of no importance when fighting for democracy.”

Started speech in Icelandic

Before Zelenskyy took the floor, President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson addressed the Ukrainian President in English, commending the Ukrainian nation’s strength. He added that Iceland and Ukraine share values and that Ukrainian refugees are welcome in Iceland, even adding a few sentences in Ukrainian.

Zelenskyy, in turn, began his speech with a few words in Icelandic, saying “Hello, this is Volodymyr from Kyiv.” He emphasised the ancient ties between Iceland and Ukraine: Scandinavians settled the area that is now Ukraine as early as the 8th century. He thanked Iceland for taking part in sanctions against Russia and encouraged the country to continue to put pressure on Russia. The Ukrainian President stated that Icelanders’ expertise in energy could come to good use in rebuilding Ukraine after the war is over.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

A few dozen Ukrainians and supporters of Ukraine were gathered outside the Parliament building while the event took place, brandishing Ukrainian flags.

Prime Minister mentions women and children

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Iceland’s Prime Minister, took the floor following Zelenskyy’s address. She condemned Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons, saying that military action should be resisted and assuring Zelenskyy that the Icelandic government would do everything in its power to help the Ukrainian people. She stated that Iceland wanted in particular to provide special protection for women and children who were survivors of sexual violence due to the conflict. The Prime Minister ended her address by asking those present to rise for a moment of silence on behalf of the Ukrainian nation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy to Address Icelandic Parliament and Nation Today

Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address Iceland’s Parliament and the Icelandic nation virtually at 2:00 PM this afternoon. It is the first time a foreign head of state makes a speech in Alþingi, according to a notice from the Office of Parliament. The address will be broadcast into Alþingi in a special ceremony involving the Prime Minister and President of Iceland.

Speaker of Parliament Birgir Ármannsson will preside over the event and will be its first speaker. After Birgir, President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson will say a few words on behalf of the Icelandic nation. Zelenskyy will then speak after Guðni, followed by Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

Icelandic authorities have condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and expressed support for the Ukrainian nation and government in the ongoing conflict. Iceland has participated in international economic sanctions against Russia and received nearly 1,000 refugees from Ukraine. An Icelandic airline has participated in transporting equipment, including military equipment, to Ukraine.

The address will be streamed live at althingi.is as well as by Icelandic national broadcaster RÚV.