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‘We need the UN (not Nato) to create a no-fly zone in Ukraine,’ says Mayor of Vilnius and other city leaders

At the MIPIM conference in March, mayors from various eastern European cities called on the UN to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

By Sebastian Shehadi

A group of European mayors are asking the UN to take action over Ukraine’s airspace in an effort to push back the Russian invasion.

The Mayor of Vilnius, Remigijus Šimašius, has launched an appeal to the UN to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, as announced on 16 March at Europe’s largest annual real estate conference, MIPIM, which has become an unusually political platform for city leaders this year.

Speaking at the event, Šimašius was joined by half-a-dozen other mayors, including the Mayor of Poznań, the Mayor of Riga and Olga Balytska, political advisor to the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko – all of whom are supporting the signed declaration to the UN.

“What is important now is the stance of cities, which I am advocating for very much,” Šimašius told Investment Monitor. “Me and other mayors in the region are appealing to the UN for them to ‘close the skies’ over Ukraine. 

“We understand why Nato and the US don’t want to intervene on their own – something that would also play into the Russian propaganda machine of an ‘aggressive’ or ‘imperialist’ West. Russia has to lose to Ukraine or the world, and the UN represents the world. It is important that we don’t wait, and that cities try and do something themselves.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has for many weeks called on Nato to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, so as to limit attacks from Russian warplanes, a request that the West continues to firmly reject. 

“We are fighting on land like crazy, but we cannot fight easily in the air,” Balytska told Investment Monitor. “It is key that we protect the skies for Ukrainians, because our aggressor enemy has no human values. They are bombing our houses, hospitals, schools and infrastructure across Ukraine.”

“The protection of our cities’ populations are being held on the shoulders of our mayors, first and foremost. They are on the ground. Our mayors are fighting. Mayors from nearby countries are fighting for us from abroad. This is why the mayors in Cannes have come together to sign the declaration to the UN to help close the skies in Ukraine. 

“The UN appeal will be submitted very soon, but we hope other mayors around Europe and [the] world join us in signing it. Cities can have a bottom-up influence on national governments. We are making our voice heard. We know what is needed.”

Mayors across central and eastern Europe (CEE) are leading the region’s support for the millions of Ukraine refugees that have fled the war. Meanwhile, in Ukraine, mayors such as Klitschko are fighting on the front line, while a number of other mayors have been kidnapped by Russian forces. 

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