Ladies and gentlemen diplomats,
I am honoured to be your guest of honour today. This is probably the moment of the greatest approximation of the Ukrainian diplomat to French diplomacy since the time of Louis XV, when Hryhoriy Orlyk was in the diplomatic service of the king. He was a Chevalier of the Order of St Louis, the son of the famous Ukrainian hetman Pylyp Orlyk, who fought for Ukraine's independence from Russia.
I am grateful to Catherine for this expression of respect for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. A people for whom, as for you, freedom is the highest value. And who for a year and a half has been opposing the largest aggression in Europe since the Second World War. Russia brought the horror of the great war back to Europe. But together we are doing everything possible to restore peace and build a new security system.
Right now, the Armed Forces of Ukraine continue to advance in their counteroffensive. It is extremely difficult. The number of minefields and fortifications is unprecedented. Russian drones, helicopters and planes dominate the air. But we gradually succeed. A few days ago, we broke through the Russian defence in one of the most difficult sectors of the front and liberated the strategically important settlement of Robotyne.
You have probably seen the news about this. Behind the dry military reports are the fates and efforts of real people. I will tell you one such story.
For several months, one Ukrainian unit conducted continuous assaults in this most difficult section of the frontline, which left its personnel physically and morally exhausted. Losses of men and equipment... At some point, this unit simply lost the ability to continue the offensive.
Then some radical decisions were made, and the leadership was changed. The new commander asked to gather motivated and ready to perform combat missions’ soldiers. A consolidated group of 31 soldiers was created, one third of whom had no combat experience, but all of them had the knowledge and will to win.
Thanks to the leadership of the commanders and sergeants, this group established horizontal links with neighbouring units and started working on the contact line.
For 18 hours, they crawled literally on their stomachs through kilometres of minefields, where the Russians had placed six mines for every square meter. Finally, the unit reached a strip of trees that divides farmers' fields. Everyone in Ukraine knows this word - "landing". It is in these invisible landings that the greatest tragedies and heroism of the war take place. So, our unit expelled the Russians out of there and held the position for two days until reinforcements arrived.
Subsequently, this group walked another 10 kilometres with backpacks weighing 35-40 kilograms through minefields. They only had time to catch their breath briefly and immediately stormed the fortified Russian positions, drove the enemy out, and held out until the main forces arrived.
In total, for 40 days this unit conducted six assaults and two reconnaissance. A group of 31 people did the work of an entire battalion, which should have consisted of about 400 people. The losses amounted to 7 wounded, including only one seriously injured who stepped on a mine.
In fact, the work of this group made it possible for an entire brigade to attack Robotyne and liberate it after weeks of assaults. After securing its flanks, we open the way to Tokmak and, ultimately, Melitopol and the border with Crimea.
I told you this story to demonstrate three principles that are also useful for diplomats. First: leaders lead forward, no matter what all sorts of sceptics say, no matter how difficult it is. Second: it is not in quantitative superiority, but in motivation, intelligence, ability to act cohesively. So whenever someone tells you once again that Russia is too big to beat, tell that story. Third: focus on victory should be unconditional.
These are the rules of our military diplomacy. Since February 2022, we have had to reinvent our methods. To subordinate diplomatic protocol and procedures to results. To reduce the time for decision-making. Advance without a guarantee of success instead of leaving escape routes. Replace passive diplomatic language with direct, tough and truthful sentences.
Life and war have forced us to build a system of military diplomacy that is similar in severity to the military hierarchy. But I am convinced that the rules we have invented may well be useful to diplomats in peacetime.
Just as a small group of soldiers near Robotyn managed to turn the tide in their favor, diplomats from different countries can also do the impossible if they move forward, support each other on the flanks, and stay focused on the goal.
The goal is Ukraine's victory and the restoration of a just peace, and thus order and stability in Europe and the world. We cannot allow the voices of sceptics to drown out the voice of purpose. We need a victory over evil, not a draw. Because there can be no draw with evil. There can only be defeat. By compromising with evil, we lose the most important thing - ourselves.
Would France have been France if Charles de Gaulle had succumbed to Churchill's persuasion and pressure to enter negotiations with the Vichy regime and seek a compromise with Nazi supporters?
Similarly, Ukraine will not be Ukraine, and Europe will not be Europe, if we allow Putin to step over more than a hundred thousand war crimes, people tortured in basements, women raped and burned alive, children murdered, and cities bombed.
We are not deaf, and we hear voices about the need to reach an agreement with Putin. Even today, Catherine and I were asked this question at a press conference. Well, let's look back.
February 12, 2022. Putin has a phone call with President Macron and tells him that Russia will not attack Ukraine. Two weeks before the invasion, when even the date of the invasion has probably been determined.
August 19 of this year. The Russians hit the centre of a peaceful city, Chernihiv, with a ballistic missile, killing 6-year-old Sofia. In a few days, she was supposed to go to first grade.
August 23, 2023. In the skies over Russia, a missile shoots down a charter plane and kills war criminal Prigozhin and his accomplices. Exactly two months after the coup attempt and the alleged agreement with Putin, the receipt of some guarantees of his own security.
What can be agreed upon with a man who kills children with missiles, lies to the face of world leaders, and destroys even his own henchmen, to whom he allegedly provided guarantees?
Now is the time for arms diplomacy, not ceasefire diplomacy. That is why we are working on new solutions, new defence steps that will give additional strength to our soldiers. And I would like to thank France here for a number of critical decisions that were made during the war: tanks, Caesars, Scalps, Crotals, and many other things - we will always remember this with gratitude.
A frozen conflict will not bring peace, it will only bring a worse war. A frozen conflict will not save lives; it will take even more lives. As long as the Ukrainian people are ready to fight, you should be ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with them.
The only way to a real end to the war is through President Zelenskyy's Peace Formula.
Russia's aggression against Ukraine is the largest war in Europe since World War II. And the Ukrainian Formula for Peace is the most ambitious diplomatic project since the post-war reconstruction of Europe and the Marshall Plan.
The ambitiousness of this task should tickle the ego of any diplomat who wants to achieve something historic. But its difficulty should not stop or discourage us. Just as a brave Ukrainian unit did the impossible and broke through fortifications that Europe had not seen in 80 years. In the same way, we, together with you, are capable of performing a diplomatic miracle and ending the Russian aggression with a just and lasting peace. "Just" means the full restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity. "Lasting" means that Russia will not be able to repeat the attack.
When the Peace Formula is implemented, for the first time since World War II, a war will end not on the terms of the aggressor or a third party, but on the terms of the country that was attacked. President Zelenskyy rightly emphasizes: the war is going on the Ukrainian soil, our people are suffering, and therefore the Ukrainian vision of peace must be at the heart of any peace efforts.
This also requires a new intensity of work in Europe. The European political community is a good format for this, and we support it. We also need a new quality of cooperation with our colleagues outside Europe and North America.
France's leadership in Europe and the world is extremely important. You have already demonstrated this, and we count on you to continue to embody your leadership. Not a single decision made by France over the past year and a half, which could not have been imagined before, was a mistake. You have done everything right.
Instead, the common mistakes had been accumulating for years before, and each one was provoked by a lack of resolve and an unwillingness to recognize that Russia is Europe's worst enemy. This is particularly unfair in relation to the decision to leave Ukraine at the door of the EU and NATO. Fears, stereotypes, and the desire to look at Ukraine through the prism of Russia were a misguided strategy.
All the strategies towards Russia based on love of Russian gas, ballet and historical sentiments failed crushingly the moment Russian missiles hit Kyiv.
France has already shown strength by admitting that its policy toward Russia was wrong. Finally changing the strategy today means rethinking the map of Europe. An independent Europe that is an independent global player must have two things.
First, leaders who are able to make strong decisions. After all, the path to independence is paved by leaders. Second, an independent Europe must have a foothold.
France has repeatedly turned its gaze to the east in search of it. In recent history, there was an attempt to see Russia in the east. But Russia has never wanted to be a partner of Europe and has become its destroyer, not its support.
France has the leadership and a new foothold to really strengthen Europe's independence. The leadership is President Macron. And the fulcrum is Ukraine, which will become a member of the EU and NATO. Ukraine, which is united with France not only by centuries of common history, which was carefully erased from memory by the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, but also by modern common values.
It was once said in this room that the European security system is impossible without Russia. Today I can say with confidence that the European security system is impossible without Ukraine. We are ready to be a major contributor, given our real capabilities and strength.
Ukraine's victory will be the victory of an independent Europe.
Of course, all this will not happen by itself. You cannot go with the flow and get what you want. You have to fight for it. We have to make bold decisions. Europe is lucky that France knows how to do this.
Glory to Ukraine and glory to France.