One year ago today, Russian troops invaded the independent and sovereign state of Ukraine. In an attempt to rapidly bully its citizens into submission, a heavy bombardment of tanks, artillery, missiles and bombs destroyed villages and cities. Since then, thousands of innocent civilians have lost their lives. Russia’s war in Ukraine has also a directly negative impact on food security of the most vulnerable groups, particularly across Africa. This was a brutal, unprovoked, unjustified and illegal aggression by one country against the territory and people of its neighbour, a blatant violation of International Law and the Principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
As an international community, we have a duty to stand up against illegal aggression, it is both our legal and moral responsibility to stand with Ukraine and support it to prevent the total devastation of its people, its infrastructure and ultimately its society. For Europe, the option to stay silent is not available to us. Russia presents an immediate threat to Ukraine and ultimately a threat to all its neighbours and international security as a whole. As part of our collective national interest, we have a responsibility as members of the international community to demonstrate our commitment to the UN Charter and the international rules based order.
The EU is at the forefront of global efforts in supporting its partners in coping with food insecurity. Together with the UN Black Sea Grain Initiative, the European Union-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes have allowed the export of more than 44 million tonnes of Ukrainian agricultural products on the global markets. The EU and its Member States are also providing an estimated 18 billion Euros (nearly 350 billion Rand) to support vulnerable populations and countries, while the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development are investing 7 billion Euros (nearly 135 billion Rand) to support food security. Over half of these resources are going to regions most affected, notably South Saharan Africa.
Meanwhile, Russia cited many reasons to justify its aggression, but all are hollow and void. In the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, Russia committed “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “to refrain from the threat or use of force” against Ukraine. In return for assurance of its security and sovereignty, Ukraine ceded to Russia what amounted to the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal. There neither is a “Nazi regime” in Kyiv, nor are Russian speakers subject to repression. On the contrary, there are many people in Ukraine who speak Russian as their mother tongue – including President Zelensky. Furthermore, he was democratically elected with the overwhelming support of more than two thirds of voters.
Contrary to Russian propaganda, Ukraine is an independent sovereign state. The Ukrainian resistance against the invasion is evidence of the Ukrainian State’s legitimacy and the desire of its citizens to live in a country, which is democratic and accountable to its own citizens. If the Russian narrative held any truth, Ukraine would already be defeated.
NATO, a defensive alliance, has not pushed Ukraine to join the organization and is not responsible for Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine. The EU is ready to support Ukraine’s initiative for an immediate ceasefire and a comprehensive, just and lasting peace based on respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. To date, Russia has not shown any genuine willingness regarding a fair and sustainable peace. Russia’s aims in Ukraine are violent and neo-colonial; they do not accept the right of a neighbouring independent nation to decide their own future. In this world where we strive to build democratic and inclusive societies, it must be left to the citizens of each country to decide with whom they wish to trade, where they want to travel, and to which regional organizations they want to belong. These are core national interests, and no neighbour should be allowed a say in these decisions.
The truth is that almost all of Russia’s neighbours today are profoundly afraid and deeply suspicious of Russia’s belligerent posturing. Finland and Sweden, who for decades were proud of their neutrality, now want to join NATO because their populations feel increasingly insecure in the vicinity of such an aggressive neighbour.
There is only one way to end this war: Russia must stop it. We cannot be ambiguous about the struggle of Ukraine for freedom, independence and peace. Russia must stop its aggression. It must withdraw its troops from the territory of an independent country. Those who caused the destruction and the infinite suffering must be held accountable. And they will be. If the world does not prevail over this evil act of violence and transgression of international legality, all of us will pay a heavy price. In Europe, in Africa and beyond.
Sandra Kramer, Ambassador of the EU
Georgios Aravositas, Ambassador of Greece
Romana Koenigsbrun, Ambassador of Austria
Manuel do Vale Charge d’affaires of Portugal
Ante Cicvaric, Ambassador of Croatia
Paolo Cuculi, Ambassador of Italy
Fionnuala Gilsenan, Ambassador of Ireland
Attila Horvath, Ambassador of Hungary
Hakan Juholt, Ambassador of Sweden
Dainius Junevicius, Ambassador of Lithuania
Andrzej Kanthak, Ambassador of Poland
Anne Lammila, Ambassador of Finland
Arnaud Roux, Charge d’affaires of France
Antonis Mandritis, High Commissioner of Cyprus
Andreas Peschke, Ambassador of Germany
Han Peters, Ambassador of the Netherlands
Tobias Elling Rehfeld, Ambassador of Denmark
Pavel Rezac, Ambassador of the Czech Republic
Raimundo Robredo, Ambassador of Spain
Monica Sitaru, Ambassador of Romania
Vladimir Gracz, Ambassador of Slovakia
Maria Tzorzorkova, Ambassador of Bulgaria
Paul Jansen, Ambassador of Belgium