Ladies and Gentlemen! Two days ago I was in Donbas, on the demarcation line. De jure – between Ukraine and the temporarily occupied territory. De facto – the demarcation between peace and war. There is a kindergarten on one side, and a shell that hits it from the other. There is a school on one side, and a shell that hits the schoolyard from the other. And there are 30 children standing nearby. There are going to lessons, not to NATO.
Someone has a physics lesson. Knowing its basic laws, even children understand the absurdity of statements about the attacks launched from Ukraine.
Someone has a math lesson. Children without a calculator can figure out the difference between the number of shellings over these three days and mentions of Ukraine in this year's Munich Security Report.
And someone has a history lesson. Seeing a shell crater in the schoolyard, children have a question: has the world forgotten its mistakes of the 20th century?
What do appeasement attempts lead to? As the question "Why die for Danzig?" turned into the need to die for Dunkirk and dozens of other cities in Europe and the world. At the cost of tens of millions of lives.
These are horrible history lessons. I just want to make sure that we read the same books. So we equally understand the answer to the main question: How did it happen that there the war is ongoing and people are dying in Europe in the 21st century? Why does it last longer than World War II? How did we get to the biggest security crisis since the Cold War?
For me, the President of the country, which has lost part of its territory, thousands of people and now sees 150,000 Russian troops, equipment, and heavy weapons stationed near its borders, so for me, the answer is obvious.
The world security architecture is fragile. It needs an update. The rules that the world agreed on decades ago no longer work. They do not keep up with new threats. They are ineffective for overcoming them. It is like taking some cough syrup when you need a COVID-19 vaccine. The security system is slow. It falters again. Because of selfishness, self-confidence, irresponsibility of countries at the global level. As a result, some commit crimes, and others stay indifferent. Indifference that results in complicity. It is symbolic that I am talking about this right here. Fifteen years ago, it was here that Russia announced its intention to defy global security. What was the world’s response? Reconciliation. What was the result? At the very least, the annexation of Crimea and aggression against my country.
The UN, which is supposed to defend peace and world security, cannot defend itself. When its Charter is violated. When one of the UN Security Council members annexes the territory of one of the founding members of the UN. Meanwhile, the UN itself ignores the Crimea Platform, the goal of which is to de-occupy Crimea peacefully and protect the rights of residents of Crimea.
Three years ago, it was here that Angela Merkel said: "Who will pick up the pieces of the world order? Only all of us together!" The audience gave a standing ovation. But, unfortunately, the collective applause did not grow into collective action. And now, when the world is talking about the threat of a great war, the question arises: is there anything left to pick up? The security architecture in Europe and the world is almost destroyed. It's too late to think about repairs. It's time to build a new system.
Mankind has done this twice, paying too high a price – two world wars. We have a chance to break this trend until it becomes a regularity. And start to build a new system BEFORE we have millions of victims. Having the old lessons of the First and Second World Wars, not a first-hand experience of a possible third one.
I talked about it here. And at the UN as well. I said that there is no such thing as a foreign war in the 21st century. That the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas is a blow to the whole world.
And this is not a war in Ukraine, but a war in Europe. I said that at summits and forums.
In 2019. In 2020. In 2021. Has the world finally heard that in 2022?
It is not an axiom yet, though not a hypothesis already. Why? Evidence is needed. Evidence harder than words on Twitter or statements in the media. Actions are needed. The world needs them, not we.
We will defend our land. Having support from partners or not. Having been given hundreds of modern weapons or 5,000 helmets. We appreciate any help, but everyone should understand that these are NOT charitable contributions which Ukraine should ask for or remind about. Not fine gestures which Ukraine should bow low for. This is your contribution to the security of Europe and the world. And Ukraine has been a shield for eight years. For eight years, it has been holding back one of the largest armies in the world. This army stands along our borders, not those of the EU. And the GRAD missiles were fired on Mariupol, not European cities. And after almost six-month fighting, the airport in Donetsk, not in Frankfurt, was destroyed. And it's always hot in the industrial area of Avdiivka, not in Montmartre. And no European country knows what it is like to hold military funerals in all regions every day. And no European leader knows what it is like to hold regular meetings with the families of the killed ones.
Be that as it may, we will defend our land. No matter how many – 50,000, 150,000 or 1 million – soldiers of any army are deployed on the border. To really help Ukraine, you don't need to say how many of them are there. You need to say how many of us are here.
To really help Ukraine, you don't have to constantly talk about the dates of a possible invasion. We will defend our land on February 16, March 1, and December 31. We need other dates much more.
And everyone understands perfectly well which dates I am talking about. Tomorrow Ukraine marks the Day of the Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred.
Eight years ago, Ukrainians made their choice, many gave their lives for it. Eight years later, should Ukraine constantly call for the recognition of European prospects? Since 2014, the Russian Federation has been convincing us that we have chosen the wrong path, that no one is waiting for us in Europe. Shouldn't Europe constantly say and prove by action that this is not true? Shouldn't the EU say today that their citizens are positive about Ukraine's accession to the union? Why do we avoid this question? Doesn't Ukraine deserve direct and honest answers?
The same goes for NATO. We are told that the door is open. But so far: authorized access only. If not all members of the Alliance want to see us or all members of the Alliance do not want to see us, be honest about it. Open doors are good, but we need open answers, not questions closed for years. Isn't the right to the truth one of our enhanced opportunities? The next summit in Madrid is the best time for truth.
Russia says Ukraine seeks to join the Alliance to regain Crimea by force. It is good that the words "regain Crimea" appear in their rhetoric. But they misread Article 5 of NATO's charter: collective action is for protection, not attack. Ukraine will certainly regain Crimea and the occupied areas of Donbas but by peaceful means only.
We consistently implement the Minsk and Normandy format agreements. They are underpinned with unquestionable recognition of the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine. We seek a diplomatic settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict. I emphasize: solely on the basis of international law. I will never even think about the forceful way to regain the temporarily occupied territories. What is really happening in the peace process? Two years ago, we agreed on a full-scale ceasefire with the presidents of France, Russia and the German Chancellor. Ukraine adheres to it despite constant provocations from the other side. We are constantly putting forward new proposals within the framework of the Normandy format and the Trilateral Contact Group. What do we see in response? Shells and bullets. Our soldiers and civilians are being killed and wounded, civilian infrastructure is being destroyed.
The last two days are especially telling. Massive attacks with the use of weapons prohibited under the Minsk agreements. OSCE's access to Ukraine's temporarily occupied territories remains restricted.
They are threatened. They are intimidated. All humanitarian issues are blocked.
Two years ago, I signed a law on the unconditional access for representatives of humanitarian organizations to detainees. But they are denied entry to the temporarily occupied territories. Russia blocked the process after two prisoner swaps, although Ukraine submitted agreed lists. Torture at the infamous Izolyatsia Prison in Donetsk became a symbol of human rights abuses.
The two new entry-exit checkpoints we opened in Luhansk region in November 2020 have not started working – and here we see an outright obstruction under contrived pretexts. Ukraine is doing everything possible to push forward the discussion of political issues. For a year and a half, our draft laws on peculiarities of local self-government and prevention of persecution of persons in connection with the events in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been shelved at the TCG. And we see that Russia is reluctant to conduct a dialogue. Yesterday and today, Ukraine insists on holding the TCG meeting. Yesterday and today, Russia refuses to hold it. We demand that the negotiation process be unblocked immediately. In particular, within the Normandy format.
However, it does not mean that the search for peace is limited to these formats alone.
We are ready to look for the key to the end of the war in all possible formats and platforms. Paris, Berlin, Minsk. Istanbul, Geneva, Brussels, New York, or Beijing – it does not matter where we will agree on peace in Ukraine. It does not matter whether the talks are held with the participation of four countries, seven, or a hundred. The main thing is that Ukraine and Russia are among them. What is really important is the understanding that not only we need peace. The world needs peace in Ukraine. Peace and restoration of integrity within internationally recognized borders.
And only so and in no other way. And I hope no one thinks of Ukraine as a convenient and eternal buffer between the West and Russia, new Munich 2.0. This will not happen, no one will allow it. Otherwise – who's next? Will NATO countries have to defend each other? I want to believe that the North Atlantic Treaty and Article 5 will be more effective than the Budapest Memorandum.
Ukraine received security guarantees for abandoning the world's third nuclear capability. We do not have those weapons. Nor do we have security. Nor do we have a part of the territory that is larger than Switzerland, the Netherlands, or Belgium.
Nor do we have millions of our citizens what is most important. We do not have all this. But there is something we have. We have the right. The right to demand a shift from a policy of appeasement to guarantees of security and peace.
Since 2014, Ukraine has made three attempts to convene consultations with the guarantor states of the Budapest Memorandum. Three attempts failed. Today Ukraine will make the fourth attempt. And I will make my first attempt as the President.
But both Ukraine and I are doing this for the last time. I initiate consultations within the framework of the Budapest Memorandum. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was instructed to convene them. If they do not take place again or they do not result in concrete decisions to ensure the security of our state, Ukraine will have every right to believe that the Budapest Memorandum is not working and all the 1994 package decisions have been called into question.
I also suggest convening a summit of permanent members of the UN Security Council in the coming weeks, with the participation of Ukraine, Germany, and Turkey.
To address security challenges in Europe. And to draft new, effective security guarantees for Ukraine. Guarantees today, while we are not a member of the defense alliance. And, in fact, we are in a gray area – a security vacuum.
What else can we do now? To continue to provide efficient support to Ukraine and its defense capabilities. To provide a clear European prospect, support instruments available to candidate countries, clear and comprehensive timeframe for joining the Alliance. To support the transformation in our country. To create a Sustainability and Recovery Fund for Ukraine and the lend-lease program for supplying advanced weapons and equipment to our army.
To draft an effective package of preventive sanctions to deter the Russian Federation. To guarantee Ukraine's energy security, ensure its integration into the EU energy market, while Nord Stream 2 is used as a weapon.
All these questions need answers. And as long as there is silence instead, there will be no silence at the front. In the east of Ukraine. That is, in Europe. That is, all over the world. I hope that Europe and the whole world finally understand this.
Ladies and Gentlemen! I thank all the countries that have supported Ukraine.
With words, declarations, concrete help. I thank all those who stand with us today. Stand with truth and international law. I'm not calling you by name as I don't want some other countries to be ashamed. But it is their choice. Their karma. They have it on their conscience. However, I do not know how they will be able to explain their actions to the two soldiers killed and three soldiers wounded in Ukraine today. And most importantly – to three girls from Kyiv. One is 10 years old, another is 6, and the third one is only a year old. Today they lost their father. At 06:00 Central European Time.
When a Ukrainian intelligence officer, Captain Anton Sydorov, died in the artillery fire, prohibited by the Minsk agreements. I don't know what he was thinking about at the last moment of his life. He certainly didn't know what agenda someone needed to meet to end the war. But he knows exactly the answer to the question I put at the beginning.
He knows for sure – WHICH ONE OF US IS LYING?
May he rest in peace. May all those killed today and during the war rest in peace.
May all those who do not want to stop this war burn in hell.
May the glory of all those who fight and continue to fight for peace and freedom be eternal!
Glory to Ukraine!
Cover photo: President’s Office
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