A humanitarian aid ship from France has set off from the Port of Marseille towards Ukraine, in the most significant aid effort from France since the Russian invasion.
The ship – dubbed ‘a boat for Ukraine’ and formally named the Aknoul – departed today (Wednesday, September 28), with more than 1,000 tonnes of aid onboard.
This includes materials set to help with the reconstruction of cities and towns destroyed by Russian artillery, as well as medical equipment.
The ship is scheduled to arrive on October 4, at the Romanian port of Constanta, in the Black Sea. The cargo will then be transported to the humanitarian hub in Suceava, Romania, near the Ukrainian border.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry is set to send 34 rescue workers from the military civil security unit, and two firemen from the Marseille marine fire brigade to assist.
Operation launched on August 24
President Emmanuel Macron announced the operation on August 24, the date of the Ukrainian national day.
He said: “We are today organising, and we will organise imminently, aid for the military resistance in Ukraine, and also to help rebuild.”
The French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, visited Ukraine on September 27, and reassured President Volodymyr Zelensky of France’s support. This includes defence equipment, as well as financial and humanitarian aid, she said.
Ms Colonna was present at the departure of the ship at the Port of Marseille.
The same ship as the ‘boat for Lebanon’
The Aknoul is a 122-metre vessel that usually sails between Marseille and Casablanca.
It is being chartered free of charge by the shipping company CMA-CGM, as part of a partnership signed in January 2020 between the foundation and the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The partnership has enabled 12 operations already, and this ship is the same as that sent to the port of Beirut in the summer of 2020, after the explosion that devastated the Lebanese capital. It carried more than 2,500 tonnes of aid and equipment to Lebanon.
The largest single aid package from France
The Aknoul’s 1,000 tonnes of equipment includes:
15 fire and rescue vehicles
Rescue and clearing equipment
Bridges in parts
Mine clearance equipment
25 tonnes of medical equipment
60,000 food rations
This is the largest humanitarian shipment provided by France since the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022. Its value is estimated at €8million.
Aid materials to be used to rebuild Chernihiv
Part of the aid will help with the reconstruction of the town of Chernihiv, north of Kiev, 70% of which was destroyed, according to its mayor, after a month of bombardment by Russian aircraft and artillery.
Kremlin troops left the city at the end of March, but it largely remains in ruins.
At the Lugano conference in July 2022, France pledged to participate in the reconstruction efforts. The cities of Kharkiv (eastern Ukraine), Odessa (southern Ukraine), and others badly hit by bombing will also receive this French aid.