OSLO (Reuters) – Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere urged the country’s children on Wednesday to invite Ukrainian refugee children to play with them and make them feel welcome, as the Scandinavian country geared up for more Ukrainians fleeing conflict at home.
Some 14,000 Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have so far sought refuge in the Nordic country of 5.4 million since Russia started its invasion on Feb. 24, though the government is preparing for the arrival of up to 100,000 individuals.
“If you are going to play chess or football, invite them to join you,” Stoere told a news briefing for media dedicated to children. “Adult” media was not allowed in but could follow the news conference on a webcast.
Children asked the government questions about the crisis in Ukraine, including “how can we stop the war?”, “will the war expand to other countries?”, “what is NATO?” and “Why does the war in Ukraine mean more than wars in other countries?”
Stoere said that, while all wars were terrible, the war in Ukraine took on added significance because it is happening closer to home.
“It makes things very real,” he said.
It is not the first time that Norwegian politicians have addressed children on national television. Stoere’s predecessor, Erna Solberg, held several news briefings dedicated to children during the most intense periods of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During local elections two years ago, political leaders took part in a special debate on children’s TV, reflecting a wider Scandinavian trend of taking children’s viewpoints seriously.
(Reporting by Karlotta Weber, editing by Gwladys Fouche and Bernadette Baum)