November 14th, 2022
Thank you, dear Josep!
I would like to thank you and all EU colleagues for all the support you have just referred to. It's much appreciated.
Dear colleagues, I’m glad for this opportunity to see you again. Important meeting today. The winter is coming. Kherson is liberated. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi is visiting it right now, as we speak.
The situation keeps developing and in order to win we must always be one step ahead.
A lot on my and your plates today. I will not go into details of the security situation on the ground. I am sure you are following events closely and your experts update you regularly. Let me tell you just one quick story for starters.
In the summer of 2021, I took my kids to the Kherson region. There was a guide, Oleksiy, who was in love with Kherson and committed his life to turning it into a sightseeing hit. After the occupation of the city by Russia, he texted me, thanking me for my service and saying he was honored to make a guide for me in Kherson back then. As if he was saying goodbye… I responded by saying that he will definitely make another tour with me around Kherson. After it is liberated. I don’t think he believed it would ever happen. And yet, it did. So contact me if you decide to visit Kherson, I will be happy to share his contacts with you.
This whole situation applies to everyone who doesn’t believe in us. To those who express doubt, who sow doubts and fears about what’s next. But here is one thing to remember: you can’t win if you don’t believe.
I thank everyone who believes in Ukraine’s victory. You won’t regret it.
Today, I will keep it short and just briefly run through ten most crucial points.
These are steps I think we all need to do now to ensure that both Ukraine and the EU carry on through this war-time winter. I will also pay separate attention to our vision of peace. Because I see an awful lot of media speculation on this issue lately and I would like all of us to be on the same page.
But first, let’s start with sanctions. They do work. I am grateful to all of you for imposing previous rounds of sanctions on Russia. No steps backwards are acceptable.
Sanctions helped us seriously slow down the Russian war machine. This proves that the pressure needs to be stepped up. To those who think that sanctions bear a price for the EU as well, I can only propose to imagine what price the EU will have to pay if we fail to stop Putin in Ukraine. The cost of sanctions is actually minimal compared to the ability to preserve security in the EU and neutralize the Russian threat to Europe. I hope no one in this room thinks Putin came only for Ukraine. Let’s better stop him now.
I will focus on three major issues here: stronger energy sanctions on Russia, expanding the list of individual sanctions, and a total ban on Russian propaganda. This list is not exhaustive, but these are the priorities I want to highlight.
We need a full-scale energy embargo to stop the war. Situation over the oil price cap raises concerns as well as disappointment. I share Josep's view, who recently mentioned that Putin believes democracies are weak and is waiting for the cold weather, gas cuts, high prices and low temperatures. Agreeing on oil price cap methodology will prove him wrong.
Russian propaganda. I believe that in current circumstances it is truly suicidal to allow any Russian propaganda to continue operating in the EU. They have nothing to do with the freedom of the media. They are state propaganda with only one aim: to instigate war, ruin democracies and all our values. Their goal is not to inform but to destabilize and destroy us. All of us, present in this room, and me, connected to you online. Ban it altogether to protect freedom of speech in the EU.
Individual sanctions need to be expanded. In particular, we list those involved in illegal actions at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Ukraine has already introduced such sanctions at the national level. We handed the list over to the EU.
My second item is defense assistance, weapons. Air defense systems are still a top-priority. I am deeply, deeply grateful to those of you who have already taken urgent steps. You are literally saving lives. You are protecting our skies. I am also grateful to the EU for stepping up and speeding up international military aid. I welcome recent Council decisions to allocate the sixth package of 500 million euro under the European Peace Facility and establish the EU Military Assistance Mission. More will be needed.
My third point today is macro-financial aid. Russian attacks have plunged Ukraine into a harsh energy crisis. The situation is critical for our economy. That is why your macro-financial assistance is so critical. I am thankful for the decision to provide a new package of 18 billion euros for 2023. We count on your support in finally releasing 3 billion euro from the package without delay.
Equally important is the fourth point on my list. Humanitarian aid and especially assistance to recover our energy system ahead of winter. There is not a single Ukrainian power plant that has not been affected, damaged one way or another by Russian attacks. We do need urgent deliveries of energy equipment, first and foremost transformers, and I am grateful to those of you who have already taken relevant steps. I am equally grateful to the EU Commission for actively working on this. We are also looking forward to the International conference on assistance to Ukraine convened by France on December 13th.
The fifth item is grain exports. I am grateful to the EU for supporting solidarity lanes. The Black Sea Grain initiative must keep functioning too. Ukraine remains fully committed to it. We need to not only keep Russia committed to the initiative but also force Russia to stop its quiet sabotage and delays in inspections of vessels. The latest episode of Russia’s failed attempt to ruin the grain deal demonstrates the way to handle Putin. He returned to the deal not because concessions were offered to him, but because the UN Secretary General and the President of Turkiye were tough and principled enough. They spoke to him in his language, in the language he understands. This is an example and a warning: do not give in to Russian blackmail and demands to soften sanctions. This will worsen the situation instead of resolving it. Remain tough, principled with him instead.
The sixth item is the Holdomor and it’s closely linked to the grain initiative I just mentioned. I will be very brief here. On November 26th, we will be commemorating 90 years since the beginning of the Holodomor. This was s Soviet genocide of the Ukrainian people. Stalin used hunger as a weapon to destroy the Ukrainian nation and killed millions of people by starvation. The world turned a blind eye on this horror 90 years ago, but we owe the victims of this genocide at least memory today. I sincerely call on all of you to make this timely political move in support of Ukraine and recognize the Holodomor as genocide of Ukrainians. A genocide and nothing else. No half-solutions, no obscure formulas. Evil must be called by its name. This is ever more timely because right now another dictator in Moscow proceeds with another genocide of the Ukrainian people, a second one in less than a century. The recognition of the Holodomor will also help us explain to public opinion in the EU why the current Russian war matters, and give it a historical perspective.
The seventh item is Ukraine’s path toward EU membership. Despite the war, we are moving forward with the seven items outlined by the EU Commission, and at a good pace. We are determined to complete the list by the end of the year. We count on the issue becoming central at the upcoming Ukraine-EU summit. I believe that Ukraine’s progress will enable us to swiftly proceed towards the start of negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU.
My eighth item is Ukraine’s initiative to establish a special tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine. I have repeated it time and again. Putin and his entourage committed this crime in plain sight. The crime must be punished if we do not want to encourage all wannabe aggressors around the world. Ukraine fully supports the ICC and we would like the court to take care of this case, but unfortunately it can’t -- due to legal obstacles. This is why creating a special tribunal is the only way forward. I emphasize that the only precedent such a tribunal will create will be a positive one: we will prove that justice for the crime of aggression against Ukraine can be delivered. Therefore, all other aggressors will be warned, and all other victims of aggression will be encouraged.
Ukraine will be putting forward a UN General Assembly resolution on the accountability of Russia, including for the crime of aggression. I call on you to support it.
My last two points are not least, but probably the most important. First, let’s stay principled and not seek normalization of Russian aggression one way or another. Please, state it clearly that there will be no normalization or engagement of Russia until it withdraws troops from Ukraine. This includes not giving floor to Russia, including its Foreign Minister. He is formally our colleague, but in reality a war criminal complicit in the crime of aggression against Ukraine. A person who chose to violate all norms of international law and vigorously, fiercely defend these violations across the world. I have just come back from ASEAN summit in Cambodia where some countries tried to use the “both, Ukraine and Russia, are our friends” argument. Let me say this: supporting Ukrainians and tolerating Russian criminals are irreconcilable. My message is very simple. There should be no place for people like him in Europe and elsewhere. No considerations can justify their presence at any European forum.
My last point is this: there have been an awful lot of media speculations around the peace process lately. I will be crystal clear. No other country in the world wants peace in Ukraine more than Ukraine itself. We have never wanted this war in the first place. But we also know that accepting Russian ultimatums will not bring peace. Quite the opposite. Russia wants a pause to replenish its forces and launch an even more brutal attack as soon as it will be able to do so. Unfortunately, we have not heard any constructive proposals from Russia, and we will not, let’s be realists. Signals from Russia that they are open for talks is nothing else but a smoke screen for its continued aggression. Putin does not want any compromises right now. This is why President Zelensky clearly stressed: Russia must withdraw troops from the Ukrainian territory within internationally recognized borders. This will pave the wave for the peace process.
Those who think this will not happen because it can not happen and so on - remember at Kherson. It can happen. But we need to remain principled. This is a new 1938 moment for Europe and certainly not a time to seek “Peace for our time”. We need real peace this time. Otherwise, all of our names will be put down in history books as appeasers who failed to prevent a catastrophe. And none of us, I mean both you and me, are interested in this.
At this I exhausted my priority list. Thank you once again for inviting me and thank you for standing with Ukraine. Thank you for being friends, thank you for being those who want victory. If we stay united and principled during these difficult times, we will also celebrate the restoration of peace and security in Europe. And the more support there will be, the more weapons we receive, the sooner it will be.
Thank you once again and wishing you a fruitful discussion today.