Statement by the UNIC Co-Chairs Oleksandr KORNIYENKO, First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, and Audronius AZUBALIS

29 January 2024

As Russia’s flagrant and unequivocally illegal full-scale aggression against Ukraine, in blatant violation of international law and human rights, is nearing its second anniversary, it continues to inflict intolerable death, suffering, and destruction upon the Ukrainian people, gravely undermining Euro-Atlantic and global security and threatening the very foundations of the rules-based international order. 

Over the last weeks, Russia has massively stepped up its campaign of missile and drone attacks across Ukraine. Once again, civilians and civilian infrastructure have been deliberately and systematically targeted. We strongly condemn the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the unprecedented demonstration by the aggressor state of its terrorist nature. These attacks serve as a cruel reminder of the significant and direct threat the Russian Federation continues to pose to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area and globally, and the imperative to stand united with Ukraine until its victory.

Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council (UNIC) members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) met in Brussels today.

The brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine has taken a severe human toll and caused enormous suffering to the Ukrainian people. 5,9 million Ukrainians have sought refuge in Europe alone, and 3,7 million have been internally displaced. According to the most conservative estimates, over 10,000 civilians have been killed since February 2022. 

The Council reaffirmed our profound respect and admiration for Ukraine’s heroic defence of its territory and our shared democratic values. Russia’s campaign of terror has failed to break Ukraine’s spirit – the Ukrainian people continue to display remarkable strength and resilience in their determination to fight back. 

Russia is determined to continue the war. Its war budget has increased, its economy has transitioned to a war footing, and it projects instability around the world through its proxies. If not defeated in Ukraine, Russia will use Ukraine’s territory and resources to threaten the European states. Allied parliamentarians, joined by democratic nations worldwide, remain resolutely united behind Ukraine in its valiant fight to defend its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. We welcome the Assembly’s continued commitment to supporting vital military, economic, political, and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine. 

Vladimir Putin hopes that NATO Allies will grow weary of assisting Ukraine in its self-defence. However, it is imperative for us – Allies and Ukraine alike – to demonstrate that the Kremlin has grossly misjudged. Only continued transatlantic unity and resolve can stop this war and deter future aggression. Thus, we wholeheartedly welcome recent announcements of new bilateral support packages. Long-term commitments for uninterrupted military support remain essential. Allies must do their utmost to increase, speed up, and sustain the delivery of military equipment, which Ukraine urgently needs to win. This includes the delivery of missiles and ammunition and more air defence systems. We call on the Allies to ramp up – individually and collectively – the industrial base and consider a potential EU legislative adaptation to temporarily re-orientate military supply chains solely for Allied and Ukrainian needs.

To truly achieve peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area, a strong, democratic, and secure Ukraine must become a full member of the NATO and EU families.

We, therefore, welcome the recent agreement on the opening of EU accession talks with Ukraine, which recognises Ukraine’s significant progress in implementing reforms despite Russia’s ongoing war against the country.

We also applaud the further, significant efforts made towards NATO membership since the Vilnius Summit, a path the Ukrainian people have chosen and anchored in Ukraine’s Constitution. The stable and effective work of the NATO-Ukraine Council at all levels is ensured. In particular, the NATO-Ukraine Council has become a reliable mechanism for crisis consultations. Ukraine has also prepared the adapted Annual National Program for 2024 and has already started its implementation. Ukraine’s NATO membership is the only way to deter future Russian aggression. It would also significantly strengthen Allied collective defence. 

We believe that all NATO-Ukraine partnership mechanisms should be used to their fullest extent to help Ukraine further advance towards full membership as soon as possible. We urge Allied parliaments to initiate relevant discussions to encourage Allies, over the coming months, to take further bold strategic decisions and extend an invitation to Ukraine to join NATO. 

The Assembly is determined to play a role in supporting Ukraine’s further democratic consolidation and assisting with its reform agenda, including through the special fund to support Ukraine’s democracy. In this spirit, the Assembly adopted new measures at the 2023 NATO Annual Session, which will help fortify the essential partnership between the Assembly and the Verkhovna Rada. As part of these new measures, UNIC elected a Rapporteur at today’s meeting, who will update the Council on progress on Ukrainian legislative and government reforms aimed at bringing Ukraine closer to NATO on both the political and military dimension. 

To support this path of reform, NATO should establish a Centre for Democratic Resilience at its Headquarters by the 2024 NATO Summit in Washington, D.C. to serve as a platform for sharing resources and exchanging best practices among Ukraine, Allies and their partners.

More nations should support Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s Peace Plan to achieve a comprehensive, just and sustainable peace. 

We reiterate that Russian authorities must be held fully accountable for the crime of aggression as well as war crimes, crimes against humanity and reported acts of genocide committed in Ukraine. Co-aggressors and accomplices of the Russian state, including the regimes in Belarus, Iran and North Korea, must also be held accountable for their actions as well as for the massive damage caused by this war.

Allies and their partners must also expand and sustain sanctions until Russia ends its aggression and withdraws all its troops from all Ukraine’s territory. We thus welcome the adoption of the 12th package of sanctions against Russia by the European Union as well as the start of preparation of the 13th package. We stress the importance of adopting national and multilateral mechanisms to prevent sanction circumvention. We also strongly condemn Iran’s and North Korea’s support for Russia’s war effort, notably by providing arms and ammunition and urge all countries not to supply material or other support for Russia’s illegal war of aggression.

The reconstruction of Ukraine will require an unprecedented mobilisation of resources. It is crucial to recognise that the long-term economic benefits for all stakeholders involved in supporting Ukraine’s recovery far outweigh the up-front costs. The Government of Ukraine, the World Bank Group, the European Commission and the United Nations estimate that the cost of reconstruction and recovery in Ukraine has grown to USD 411 billion. However, the benefits to Ukraine, the international system and the global economy will outweigh these up-front costs. Allies and Ukraine’s other partners should therefore fully commit to reconstruction. We are also convinced that Russia must pay for the damages it has inflicted on Ukraine’s economy, infrastructure and people. Frozen Russian assets should be used to finance part of Ukraine’s reconstruction, as much as it is possible under the law. We welcome the recent propositions made by the European Union on utilisation of immobilised Russian assets and the revenues stemming from them. This is a first tangible step towards making the aggressor’s assets work for the benefit of its victim as is recently announced initiatives within G7 by the United States, and we hope that tangible steps will be taken in 2024. 

The Assembly is institutionally separate from NATO but serves as an essential link between NATO and the parliaments of the NATO nations. It provides greater transparency of NATO policies and fosters better understanding of the Alliance’s objectives and missions among legislators and citizens of the Alliance.

UNIC was created in 1998 to bring greater transparency to the implementation of the NATO Ukraine Charter and to demonstrate parliamentary interest and involvement in cooperation between NATO and Ukraine. It has since become a wider forum where members can discuss any issues of mutual concern. UNIC has played a leading role in the Assembly’s response to Russia’s renewed invasion.

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