Speech by President von der Leyen at the online Summit of the Crimea Platform

Dear President Zelenskyy, dear Volodymyr,

President Duda,

Distinguished guests,

In February and March of 2014, Russia carried out its annexation of the Crimean peninsula through brutal force. This brazen violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and international law marked the beginning of Putin’s deplorable attempt to deny Ukraine its freedom. It was a direct response to Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity, in which brave Ukrainian citizens demanded justice, democracy and the right to choose their own future in Europe. Crimea has since then been used, not only as a Russian military base, but also as a testing ground for the brutal methods Russia is now applying across the other occupied parts of Ukraine. You know that the European Union is Ukraine’s closest friend and a staunch defender of international law. We will never recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation.

We are deeply concerned about the human rights violations in the Crimean peninsula. The disappearances, the torture, the killings. The persecution of Crimean Tartars. The intimidation and incarceration of journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders. This is the dark reality of Putin’s occupation. The European Union will tirelessly work with the Ukrainian authorities and our partners to expose these violations, to hold those responsible accountable, and to support the victims. We are with you. We have been with you in this existential fight from the beginning. Since Russia’s full-blown assault in February, we have massively stepped up our economic, humanitarian and military support. We have welcomed over seven and a half million Ukrainian refugees into our homes. Our sanctions are critically undermining Putin’s war machine and the Russian economy. EU solidarity lanes helped export over 10 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain. And we will continue to help you get the grain out, that has been stuck in Ukrainian ports, due to Russia’s cynical blockade. The European Union will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Putin wanted to thwart Ukraine’s independence and break your belief in a better future. The opposite has happened. Not only is Ukraine celebrating its 31st year of independence tomorrow, but you have also become a candidate to join the European Union. Our people have never been closer. And our commitment to a free and democratic Ukraine has never been stronger.

Slava Ukraini.