Five hundred and sixty-five days have passed since Russia unleashed its war on the whole of Ukraine. Each day brings new horrors, each day brings new suffering and death. That is the stark day-to-day reality of the people in Ukraine.
In the midst of a hail of bombs, confronted by Russian tanks, Ukraine has set off resolutely and full of optimism along the path to join the European Union. Ukraine is defending the freedom of us all with great courage and determination. Just as Ukraine is standing up for us, it can also rely on us and on our understanding of EU enlargement as a necessary geopolitical consequence of Russia’s war. And on our firm support for Ukraine on its path towards the European Union. Ukraine already has candidate status, and now we are preparing to take a decision on opening EU accession talks. Reform results in the areas of judicial reform and media legislation are already impressive. But there is still a long way to go in the implementation of the anti-oligarch law and the fight against corruption. And we as the EU ourselves now need to work swiftly to ensure that we are in a position to fit more chairs around the table.
Even though we are still enjoying summery temperatures, preparations for winter in Ukraine are already in full swing. We want to connect our power grid even more closely with Ukraine. So that families do not have to sit by candlelight worrying about their energy supply when Putin targets substations. Whatever the time of year, we will not let up in our efforts to support Ukraine in defending itself against Russia’s aggression: in an economic, military and humanitarian context. In these efforts we are also looking to the future, for our greatest desire and that of Ukraine is peace. To this end, we are unfolding the package of security pledges that we adopted with the G7 as an umbrella over Ukraine.
Putin’s horrific terrorism is manifested in the targeted attacks on day-to-day life and civilian institutions in Ukraine. Putin wants to break, discourage and crush the people. To achieve this, he will stop at nothing – not even schools, markets, grain warehouses and stations. Russia is not only killing with its bombs but is also robbing many thousands of Ukrainian children of their future. They are being taken from childcare facilities, orphanages and schools to be deported to Russian re-education camps or released for adoption in Russia. The reports of extreme brainwashing, which the Russian authorities use to destroy every link to their families and their homeland, are heartbreaking. I bow before the engagement of the social workers, psychologists and carers in Ukraine who are providing the traumatised children with a secure and safe home once again and gradually rebuilding the broken bridges. We support the organisations, Ukrainian authorities and NGOs which are working to bring the deported children back home. And to address these crimes. The trials in the International Criminal Court are an important part of this process. There is no justification for fighting this war on the backs of those who are most innocent – the children. Together with the African Heads of State and Government who recently visited Ukraine and Russia, we underscore that the very first step towards peace must be for Putin to allow these children to return home.