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France summons Russian ambassador over strike killing French aid workers in Ukraine

As France prepares to confront Russia’s envoy Mechkov over drone strikes killing two relief volunteers in Ukraine, Kherson Oblast restricted access on 5 February for foreign aid workers to areas facing constant Russian shelling.
Kherson
Aftermath of the Russian shelling of the settlements in the Beryslav district in Kherson Oblast on the evening of 6 January 2024. Credit: Kherson Military Administration

France will summon Russian Ambassador Alexei Mechkov on 5 February to reiterate condemnation of Russian strikes in Ukraine that killed two French humanitarian workers last week, diplomatic sources told French media outlet BFMTV.

On 1 February, two French casualties occurred in the Russian drone attack on the town of Beryslav in Kherson Oblast. Three other French nationals suffered injuries. The town on the Dnipro River’s Ukraine-controlled northwestern bank is just across the river from Russian positions, making Beryslav a frequent target for Russian shelling attacks. 

“Their vehicle was hit by drone fire, even though it was marked with a large red cross on the roof. Everything suggests that the Russian [military] deliberately fired on the two-car convoy,” a diplomatic source told Le Monde.

On 5 February, Kherson authorities restricted the access of foreign nationals to the region’s most dangerous territories. From now on, representatives of international organizations will not be allowed to visit settlements under constant Russian shelling without the approval of the regional military administration and military command.

France’s Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné decried an “act of barbarism” by Moscow and said that “Russia will have to answer for its crimes.” France’s anti-terrorism prosecutors opened an investigation Friday night into potential war crimes charges over the incident.

President Macron condemned the “cowardly and unworthy act” while affirming “solidarity with all volunteers engaged in helping populations” affected by Russia’s invasion.

https://twitter.com/ZelenskyyUa/status/1753364679919899025

Tensions between the nations have risen amidst French military aid to Ukraine, which Moscow blasted as “frantic militarism.” France expects increased Russian disinformation, with President Emmanuel Macron visiting Ukraine in February.

This is not the first time Russian Ambassador Alexei Mechkov has been summoned by France’s foreign ministry, including last year for indecent tweets on atrocities in Bucha along with caricatures disparaging Europe. France has also firmly denied Russian defense ministry claims circulated by pro-Kremlin sources in January that Russian strikes killed dozens of French “mercenaries” in Kharkiv.

The deceased were part of a Swiss volunteer organization, EPER. According to Le Monde, the volunteers’ names were Adrien Pajol and Guennadi Guermanovitch, but the NGO hasn’t confirmed their identities in its press release. The organization has worked in Ukraine since 2022, giving humanitarian aid to the residents of the frontline oblasts. 

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