July 18th, 2022
Dear High Representative,
Dear colleagues and friends,
I am grateful to the EU High Representative Josep Borrell for the invitation to exchange views.
It is important to focus together on the prospects of Russian aggression against Ukraine and ways to jointly protect Europe from security and economic challenges posed by aggressive Russia. By acting in unity we will overcome them.
We meet together for the first time since the historic decision to grant Ukraine EU candidate status. I am deeply grateful to each one of your countries, dear colleagues, for making this historic step. This was a moment of strength and unity for the EU, for Ukraine, and for the whole of Europe. I commend the EU for living up to the scale of challenges. What we face now is truly unprecedented in our lifetime.
We have seen horrific Russian missile terror in Ukraine over the past weeks. July 14th, a peaceful Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia, hundreds of kilometers from the frontline. Morning, the city center, a beautiful Ukrainian mother and her sweet 4 years-old daughter. She posts an Instagram story talking and smiling to her kid. Less than an hour later a Russian cruise missile that has flown all the way from the Black sea strikes the place. The child dies immediately, and the mother is severely injured. 24 people died, many dozens were wounded. Russians knew exactly where they were striking and that no military objects were anywhere around. That was their goal. They want to spread fear and provoke reprisal. This is pure terror. Russia must be legally and politically recognized a terrorist state, while we all must realize what kind of evil we are dealing with.
It is wrong and naive to think that Russia’s goals are limited to Ukraine. Putin’s plan is not only to destroy my country, but to plunge the whole of Europe into crisis. You can already see how he uses Europe's every dependence on Russia to achieve his goals. This is why getting rid of such dependencies is the only way forward. Aggressive and revanchist Russia is the greatest threat to Europe and the major source of problems facing our continent today.
Putin wants to steal normal life and stability from every European family. Be it by energy blackmail and rising prices, shortages of agricultural goods, or by propaganda and lies, or by attempting to destabilize governments.
Russia’s true objective is the immiseration of Europe. He wants Europeans and Russians to live equally badly. He wants to turn public opinion against acting governments in the hope to replace them with radical forces that would be more favorable to Russia.
We have seen this movie before, in the years following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014. One difference now is that Moscow is more aggressive. The other difference is that we have experience and know their playbook. Let’s be smarter, faster, and tougher than Putin this time to be able to outsmart him and make his plan fail.
Backing down and bowing to his demands will not work, it has never worked. This is a trap. I am sure that in the following weeks there will be more Kremlin-leaning voices nudging the public opinion into giving Putin what he wants so that he leaves Europe alone. We should actively counter these narratives. Not only will he not leave Ukraine and Europe alone if we satisfy his ultimatums, but he will increase pressure and blackmail.
If Russia senses weakness now, consequences will be far worse than what we are seeing now. We must defeat Russia. Don’t worry about cornering Putin. Russian propaganda will find a way to make any defeat look like a win.
There will be no return to business as usual with Russia in the foreseeable future. As the greatest source of threats for Europe, Russia must be fully isolated. And the best way to counter Russia and reduce its malicious influence in Europe is to support Ukraine and enable a Ukrainian victory.
With sufficient and timely assistance, Ukraine can and will prevail, while the EU needs to stay the course and remain unfaltering in the face of Russian bullying.
Russia keeps saying sanctions don’t work. At the same time, they use every opportunity to try to lift them. Why? Because sanctions do work and weaken Russia’s ability to wage the war. We need to maintain and step up the pressure until Putin’s war machine malfunctions. With higher pressure he will have to back down.
The recent sanctions packages are an important breakthrough but in order to deter Russia we should keep moving further with restrictive measures: energy embargo, including oil, gas, and coal imports.
I welcome announcements of new EU sanctions. I am grateful for including my proposals outlined in the letter to the High Representative and closing loopholes for sanctions circumvention. I also insist that all Russian television channels must be banned from European cable and satellite networks. This is not about the freedom of speech, but about depriving Russia of tools to spread disinformation and state propaganda.
Energy is key and I urge all of you to expedite decisions on a price cap for Russian oil. Our next target must be Russian maritime logistics.
Weapons assistance is essential. Ukraine is grateful for all the support provided so far, but as the war rages on, we need more, in particular long-range artillery and air-defense systems. Strengthening Ukraine now is the best investment in long-term security and stability of Europe.
We welcome today’s decision to allocate the fifth package of financial assistance worth 500 million euro under the European Peace Facility.
Let’s also forget the narrative of war fatigue. No one has ever wanted this war except Russia and we all want it to be over as soon as possible. But the only way to achieve lasting peace is for Ukraine to win. This includes overcoming fatigue and attempts of Russia to amplify it.
Russian propaganda aims to increase war fatigue, discredit Ukraine and reduce its support. This includes groundless accusations of potential weapons smuggling to undermine military aid, as well as persuading that sanctions are inefficient.
I am grateful to the EU for countering these claims, including the prompt response to disinformation on weapons.
Ukraine ensures that all procedures for obtaining, storing, and using weapons are transparent. Our control system functions well.
While living through the horror of the ongoing aggression and terrorism, we need to think about the future. Because it is the future that we are protecting from Russia’s attempts to drag us all into the worst times of the past.
As an EU candidate country, Ukraine is committed to proceeding on our path towards EU membership and we have already taken action.
We are determined to implement the steps defined by the European Commission in its conclusions, and we have elaborated a special Road Map and an Action plan of legislative and executive steps towards the membership criteria.
We will further bring our legislation closer to the EU legislation at an accelerated pace and in accordance with the list of priority European Integration bills for 2022.
We proceed with implementing crucial reforms, in particular to strengthen rule of law and anticorruption institutions.
We keep working on integrating into the EU internal market and advancing sectoral integration. Our priorities are removing all barriers in the customs, industrial, and transport areas, integrating into the energy, digital, roaming, and payment areas of the EU, as well as implementing the Green Deal.
We have our homework and are determined to do it properly. We rely on the same approach of our partners.
In almost five months of the new wave of war, Russia has violated each and every basic human right. Forced deportation of Ukrainian citizens to Russia, filtration camps, mass murders, genocide, rapes - everything the world faced during the Second World War has once again become a reality for Europe.
Missile terror is just another stage of Russian barbaric war on humanity.
Once again, I thank the EU High Representative Josep Borrell and Commissioner Lenarčič for their statement on Russian attacks against civilian targets released on July 14th.
We must spare no effort to ensure accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as Russian terrorism and deliberate targeting of civilians. I welcome all relevant efforts. It is important to note that none of these crimes would be possible without the crime of aggression as such. This is why Ukraine has initiated a special tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine and I encourage all of you to look into this initiative and consider joining it.
Weapons, sanctions, and accountability are the three ways to restore peace, enhance security, and protect stability in Europe.
Every moment of doubt, every prolongation in taking the strict measures against Moscow cost hundreds of lives. Today, these are the lives of Ukrainians, but we do not know how far Russia is ready to go.
Russia’s war costs Putin more in manpower and hardware than he anticipated, and provokes unity that he did not expect. In order to counter the Russian threat, we should implement a long-term strategy of isolation, containment and defense.
The weaker Putin will be becoming in Ukraine, the weaker his grip on Europe will be.
I look forward to your discussion today and to listening to your views.
Thank you once again for your attention and the opportunity to join you today.