The newly appointed Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hadja Lahbib (MR) met with her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kouleba on Monday in the run-up to the UN General Assembly in New York, following the controversy that surrounded an earlier trip Lahbib had made to the annexed region of Crimea.
This is their second time meeting in the space of three weeks after both had met in Prague at the end of August when they discussed Lahbib's contentious visit to the annexed peninsula of Crimea in 2021 for an arts documentary. This was when Lahbib was still working as a journalist.
A long-time journalist and French-language broadcaster for RTBF, Lahbib was appointed to the position of Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister despite a lack of political experience.
It later emerged that Lahbib had referred to the annexed region as belonging to Russia in one of the documentary clips. She subsequently wrote to Kuleba to express Belgium’s commitment to Ukraine and confirmed that Crimea is a territory under “illegal occupation” by Russia.
It now seems that both sides have moved on from this episode, with Lahbib stating that "the incident, if there was one, is now over."
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More pressing was the discussion regarding possible prosecution and punishment of Russian military forces and authorities for reported war crimes in Ukraine; the pair also talked about an upcoming visit by Lahbib to Ukraine.
On this topic, the Belgian minister has indicated that she does not want to arrive in Ukraine "empty-handed" and stressed that the Belgian state has been looking into ways to support the war-torn country.
Lahbib restated Belgium's offer of €12 million of additional weapons and ammunition to the Ukrainian army, which follows the €8 million already provided to Ukrainian soldiers in the form of first aid equipment, winter clothes, night vision goggles and medicine.