Six makeshift coffins, one of them not much larger than the size of a baby. A member of the International Criminal Court’s forensic investigation team that went to Ukraine last year, and who took part in the examination of the six bodies, said the following: ‘A kind of higher ethical standard that we as humanity have agreed upon. That we do not do this. That we do not attack civilians. That we do not drop bombs on them. And that, if you decide to do so, you will be held accountable.’
Humanity’s history has been a long sequence of war upon war. A history of impunity and suffering. But there has also been a growing determination to prevent wars and end impunity, guided by the universal belief that all of us are protected by the law.
We saw this determination on display in March last year, in response to Russia’s full scale illegal invasion of Ukraine. An overwhelming majority of 141 UN member states voted in favor of a resolution that condemns Russia’s so-called “special military operation”, “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine”, and “demands that the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine”. We also saw it on October 12, when the United Nations General Assembly voted with a large majority of 143 Member States in favor of the resolution condemning the Russian attempted annexations in Ukraine. A clear signal that the vast majority of countries around the world know right from wrong.
A year has passed since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion. Russian troops and bombs are still wreaking havoc in Ukraine. New makeshift coffins are being produced every day, in them the maimed bodies of innocent Ukrainians, many of them children. We need to make this stop.
If we are to take the view put forward by some commentators, European countries should stop fanning the flames by supplying Ukraine with arms and imposing sanctions on Russia. But if Ukraine no longer receives the means to defend itself, will Russian troops pull out? If we abolish sanctions on Russia, will Russia return the illegally annexed regions to Ukraine? Of course not.
Such proposals are politically motivated to conceal Russia’s crimes and to blame “the west” instead. This may fool some, but Ukrainians understand the basic truth that the responsibility for the murder of their compatriots lies with the one who points the gun and pulls the trigger.
Moreover, these proposals do nothing to help Ukraine. Just imagine: If you had to drag your child’s corpse out of the rubble after a Russian missile strike, would you rather hear foreign politicians claim that this was somehow all NATO’s fault? Or would you rather have them send military equipment so you can fight back?
It really all comes down to a basic question of morality. When you witness your neighbor being assaulted on the street, you come to their aid. You don’t tie the victim’s hands behind their back so that the assailant can have their way with them.
Europe is not prolonging the war by supporting Ukraine. Russia is prolonging the war by refusing to end its illegal invasion. A Russian withdrawal should not be seen as a defeat. Nor should it be seen as a humiliation. It is a return to reason, and to respect of international law and the UN Charter.
Ukrainian president Zelensky has put forward a concrete and substantial peace formula. We support this initiative for a just peace based on respect for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and its inherent right of self-defense. We support diplomatic efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine consistent with the UN Charter.
Never since World War 2 has Europe felt more threatened than today in the face of Russian aggression – aggression committed by a large nuclear power and permanent member of the UN Security Council. But never since its inception has the EU been more unified either. Our governments and our citizens firmly believe that supporting Ukraine is the right thing to do.
I am proud to say that the Netherlands has made available 18 billion RMB to support Ukraine in defending itself, address the humanitarian situation, facilitate Ukraine’s reconstruction, to house Ukrainian refugees, and to fight impunity. The EU and its Member States together have provided support to Ukraine and its people, amounting to at least 492 billion RMB. The Chinese government has made available 35 million RMB to support Ukraine and has stated that it will continue to play a constructive role in its own way.
On this day we mark the sad fact that it has been one year since the disastrous, unprovoked and illegal Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. But let me end on an optimistic note: I believe that this year, if we stand together in our support for Ukraine, we will succeed, and justice will prevail.