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

24 September 2023

Nearly 600 days of Russia’s brutal, unprovoked and illegal full-scale invasion of Ukraine have inflicted unspeakable pain and suffering upon the Ukrainian people. Vladimir Putin started this. He can stop it at any moment by withdrawing all his troops from all of Ukraine.

Members of the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council (UNIC) of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) came together yesterday in Lviv.

We paid tribute to a courageous, European nation of free people. Allied parliamentarians witnessed first-hand the resolve of the Ukrainian people to protect their land, their families, their way of life and their democracy from the onslaught of revisionist authoritarianism.

Russia is continuously undermining the values of the entire democratic, civilised and peaceful world and the rules-based international order. Moscow’s renewed, reckless obstruction and targeting of Ukrainian grain exports is a cynical attempt to gain leverage by hurting those most in need.  Russia remains the most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security and peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area, as Allied leaders made clear once again at the 2023 NATO Summit in Vilnius.

Time and again, the Assembly has reaffirmed its unwavering support for Ukraine’s democracy, independence, sovereignty, self-defence and self-determination. Its members have consistently urged their governments and NATO leaders to redouble their support. In Lviv, UNIC members reaffirmed their determination to do everything they can to support Ukraine for as long as it takes to prevail.

At our meeting, we addressed the important outcomes at the NATO Vilnius Summit. We laud the stepped-up support for Ukraine through a new substantial package of expanded political and practical support. Developing the Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP) into a strategic multi-year NATO assistance programme, setting up the NATO-Ukraine Council and removing the requirement for a Membership Action Plan are all welcome developments. So is the Joint Declaration between the G7 and President Zelenskyy, which will lead to bilateral security commitments and arrangements.

In Vilnius and since then, Ukraine’s partners have delivered or announced many important increases in military support. Thanks to this support, Ukrainian lives have been saved and Ukrainian towns and villages liberated. Continuing to step up these deliveries, both in terms of quality and quantity, must remain a priority. Ukraine must have more critical capabilities, including long-range strike systems and multi-purpose fighter jets. We welcome recent announcements of several Allies to provide these assets, and we call on other nations to follow.

We welcome that Allied leaders in Vilnius noted they would “be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met”. We therefore urge Allied leaders to take further concrete steps and decisions to assist Ukraine on its clear path toward NATO membership, so that Allies can invite Ukraine to join as soon as possible. As Co-Chairs, we strongly believe that the future European security order will be neither complete nor sustainable without Ukraine as a full- fledged member of NATO. The clear prospect of membership in NATO also plays a vital role in bolstering the morale of the Ukrainian society and armed forces as they fight for their freedom and democratic values. 

The NATO PA and UNIC, in particular, must also take further concrete, tangible steps to support Ukraine, including through the Assembly’s special fund to support Ukraine’s democracy. That is why we, as UNIC Co-Chairs, agreed to propose new practical measures at the Assembly’s upcoming Annual Session in Copenhagen. We want to fortify the partnership between the Assembly and the Verkhovna Rada. And we want to support the reforms that will bring Ukraine into NATO.

During our meeting, we also reiterated other important calls:

-    Allied leaders should take bold, strategic decisions regarding Ukraine’s NATO membership at the Washington Summit in 2024.
-    More nations should support Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s Peace Plan, which provides the foundation for a comprehensive, just and sustainable peace.
-    Russia must be held accountable, through national and international initiatives, for the crime of aggression. Those who committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and potential acts of genocide on the territory of Ukraine must be prosecuted.
-    Sanctions on Russia must be sustained and expanded to cripple its ability to continue the war effort, and national and multi-lateral mechanisms to prevent sanction circumvention must be stepped up.
-    Belarusian, Iranian and North Korean authorities must be condemned for actively supporting the Russian aggression. Co-aggressors and accomplices of the Russian state, which under the current regime is a terrorist one, must be held accountable for their actions.
-    Ukraine’s democratic partners must start putting in place a comprehensive aid programme – akin to the Marshall Plan – for the reconstruction of a more prosperous Ukraine firmly anchored to the liberal democratic family of nations. The Co-Chairs are fully convinced that blocked or frozen sanctioned Russian assets should be used for this purpose. Russia will ultimately have to pay for the damages and losses inflicted upon Ukraine.

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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