What you need to know:
- What President Putin is doing is not only a grave violation of international law, it is a violation of the basic principles of human co-existence.
At this dark hour, when we see Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and massive disinformation campaigns and information manipulation, it is essential to separate lies -- invented to justify what cannot be justified -- from facts.
The facts are that Russia, a major nuclear power, has attacked and invaded a peaceful and democratic neighbouring country, which posed no threat to it, nor provoked it. Moreover, President Putin is threatening reprisals on any other state that may come to the rescue of the people of Ukraine. Such use of force and coercion has no place in the 21st century.
What President Putin is doing is not only a grave violation of international law, it is a violation of the basic principles of human co-existence.
Russia must cease its military operations immediately, and to unconditionally withdraw from the entire territory of Ukraine. The same goes for Belarus, which has to immediately stop its involvement in this aggression and respect its international obligations.
The European Union is united in offering its strong support to Ukraine and its people. This is a matter of life and death. I am preparing an emergency package to support the Ukrainian armed forces in their fight.
The EU and its partners have already imposed massive sanctions on Russia that target its leaders and elites and strategic sectors of the Kremlin-run economy. The aim is not to harm the Russian people, but to weaken the Kremlin’s ability to finance this unjust war. In doing this, we are closely aligned with our partners and allies – the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Australia.
We have seen Russian state media and their ecosystem peddling untruths in social media networks with the aim to deceive and manipulate. The Western Balkans as well have been targeted by the Kremlin’s disinformation operations for far too long and know how to detect when being exposed to information manipulation.
The Kremlin propagandists call the invasion “a special operation”, but this cynical euphemism cannot hide the fact that we witness a fully-fledged invasion of Ukraine, with the aim to crush its freedom, legitimate government and democratic structures. Calling the Kyiv government “neo-nazi” and “Russophobic” is nonsense: all manifestations of Nazism are banned in Ukraine.
In modern Ukraine, extreme right-wing candidates are a fringe phenomenon with minimal support, without passing the barrier to enter the parliament. The Ukrainian Government did not cut the Donbass off and it has not prohibited the use of Russian language and culture. Donetsk and Luhansk are no republics, they are Ukrainian regions controlled by Russia-backed and armed separatist groupings.
On 25 February, only Russia vetoed a UN Security Council Resolution on Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining. From all over the world, countries condemn Russia’s attacks and at the General Assembly, the entire international community needs to join forces and help to end Russia’s military aggression by adopting the related UN Resolution. We particularly thank Albania as co-penholder of the resolution.
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. As Uganda celebrates 60 years of independence this year, we remember that the principles on which that independence is founded are today threatened by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. 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.
Josep Borrell is the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission (EU HRVP).