No reason for Putin’s attack on Ukraine

A Ukrainian territorial defence fighter examines a destroyed Russian infantry mobility vehicle after the fight in Kharkiv on February 27, 2022. PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • The only threat Ukraine poses to Russia’s government is that it stands as an example of what Russia could be: a democratic society underpinned by the rule of law.

On February 23, Russian forces invaded Ukraine without provocation, eight years after violently and illegally annexing Crimea. Russia alone is responsible for starting a war that has caused unnecessary death and destruction, driven tens of thousands from their homes, and that threatens global stability and prosperity. 

President Putin’s war against Ukraine – a free, independent, and sovereign state – is a gross violation of international law and the UN Charter, and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms. 

Russia has attempted for years to justify its undermining of Ukraine’s sovereignty through a web of lies and disinformation. The truth is that Ukraine poses no military threat to Russia and never has. 

Since the people of Ukraine voted for independence in 1991, no government of Ukraine has ever claimed territory outside of the 1991 borders that Russia recognised.

Ukraine, which was in possession of nuclear weapons at the time of its independence, gave its nuclear weapons to Russia so that Russia would not feel threatened and in return received assurances that Russia and other parties would respect Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty in its existing borders and refrain from the threat of the use of force or economic coercion against Ukraine. 

No Ukrainian government since has ever entered serious talks on reintroducing Ukrainian or other countries’ weapons of mass destruction, or advanced missiles that could threaten Russia, on Ukrainian soil. 

Prior to invading Ukraine, the Russian government ignored multiple diplomatic approaches. Lacking any credible justification for his invasion, President Putin has sought to justify his actions with historical grievances, trying to turn back the clock of history to a time when Russia was able to dictate any significant choice Ukraine made. 

The only threat Ukraine poses to Russia’s government is that it stands as an example of what Russia could be: a democratic society underpinned by the rule of law, with the freedom to choose its destiny. 

This is what is at stake globally, including for African countries: if Russia is allowed to conquer a peaceful, sovereign nation without any justification under international law, then no country’s territorial integrity or sovereignty is safe.

In essence, this would return the international community to the system of empires and colonialism, which heroic people in Uganda, across Africa, and around the world fought for centuries to end.

Despite many African countries having had borders imposed on them, cutting across cultural, linguistic and ethnic lines, African nations continue to respect each other’s sovereignty and the sanctity of the UN Charter. 

The African Union, which has called on Russia and all other countries to “imperatively respect international law, the territorial integrity, and solidarity of Ukraine,” recognises what is at stake if Russia’s aggression is allowed to stand.

South Africa has called on Russia to withdraw its forces immediately from Ukraine in line with the UN Charter. Kenya, calling attention to Africa’s historical struggle against imperialism, has “rejected irredentism and expansionism on any basis, including racial, ethnic, religious, or cultural factors” and affirmed its support for the “territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.”

As we together celebrate 60 years of Ugandan independence this year, we remember that the principles on which that independence is founded are today threatened by President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  Now is the time for the world to speak out clearly against this flagrant aggression, for which the Russian government will be held accountable. The use of force and coercion to change borders has no place in the 21st century. 

Those who believe in the fundamental principles of freedom, self-determination, and sovereignty must stand up and defend those principles. We welcome the support of the government and people of Uganda in standing for those values now, as they have so many times in the past. Now is the time to stand with Ukraine.

*This article is jointly authored by the Head of the European Union Delegation in Uganda, Ambassador Attilio Pacifici, the British High Commissioner Kate Airey and the
United States Ambassador to Uganda Natalie E. Brown.

The ambassadors of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of Hungary support this article.