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Joint EU ambassadors’ op-ed marking one year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

On February 24, 2022, exactly one year ago, Russia launched its brutal war of aggression against Ukraine. At the time, Yuri (name changed), a 73-year-old pensioner from Kherson, did not yet feel the need to leave his home. His children, who live in Germany and Israel, were terribly worried about their father as the invading army approached and eventually captured his city, but he assured them that he’d be fine.

Yuri stayed put for several months, despite the cruelty of the Russian occupation and his children’s pleas. In November, as the war approached his house, he became a refugee. He crossed the Dnipro River and made his way to Georgia, from where he boarded a flight to Israel. He now lives with his daughter and her family in a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Yuri is grateful to the State of Israel for granting him asylum. But when this terrible war is over, he wants to return to his home in Kherson.

We, the ambassadors of the European Union and its Member States in Israel, too, welcome the help Israel has provided to Ukraine, including supplying protective equipment and humanitarian aid, as well as condemning Russian atrocities in international forums. And we, too, want Yuri to be able to go back to his home town – to a Kherson that is part of a peaceful, sovereign and free Ukraine.

“We will always remember the courage, the defiance, the resistance of Ukrainians, your resistance, who fought through pain and sorrow to inspire the world,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said in her address to the Verkhovna Rada.

The European Union and its 27 Member States have been standing with the Ukrainian people in word and deed since the very first day on which Putin unleashed the dogs of war on our continent. We have immediately heavily sanctioned Russia and cut our purchases of Russian oil and gas. We pledged political, financial and humanitarian assistance within a few hours of the invasion. And we delivered.

The speed, quantity and quality of the support we provided, as well as the ironclad unity with which our member states and international partners have mobilised, was surprising to many.

The EU welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees, something which poses many challenges for our societies – challenges we are proud to have taken on.

During the past year, the European Union broke a decades-old taboo when for the first time ever it financed military assistance to a country under attack, showing its joint political willingness to go forward in ensuring our continent’s security.

EU military support for Ukraine – provided by the European Peace Facility and the Member States directly – is around €12 billion. Together with financial, economic and humanitarian aid, we have invested almost €50 billion in our support for Ukraine. Team Europe — European Union institutions and Member States – ranks first in our support to Ukraine.

Because we support Ukrainians’ right of self-defence. Because we support Ukrainians’ resolve to fight for their survival as a nation. And because we vehemently oppose Putin’s vision of a world where history, especially history of the Holocaust, can be denied, manipulated or trivialised to serve hegemonic phantasies. These manipulations reached a despicable low point last month, as Russia’s foreign minister compared the international help for Ukraine with Hitler’s final solution.

The Russian regime is waging war not only against Ukraine, but against the rule-based international order. As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “This is a clash between the rule of law and the rule of the gun; between democracies and autocracies; between a rules-based order and a world of naked aggression. How we respond today to what Russia is doing will determine the future of the international system.”

The EU and its Member States demand that Russia cease its military aggression and withdraw all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine immediately and unconditionally, and fully respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders.

We will continue isolating and sanctioning Russia, calling it out for war crimes, blatant violations of international humanitarian law and contemptible Nazi comparisons. Those responsible for atrocities and war crimes in Ukraine must be held accountable.

As we step up our assistance to the Ukrainian people, we encourage our partners and friends around the world, including Israel, to also do the same. All members of the family of democratic nations must do their utmost to be united in opposing Russia’s unjustified aggression. The Russian aggression against Ukraine concerns us all, Europeans and Israel alike, including the strengthening of bilateral cooperation between Russia and Iran, especially their military cooperation and mutual support in circumventing the sanctions.

In the words of the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, “Ukraine has to win this war and we will support it in the best possible way.”

On this solemn day, we mourn those who have died in this unjust and unprovoked war. We salute brave Ukrainians like President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and others like Yuri from Kherson, who are not giving up their dream of living in a peaceful and sovereign country free from tyranny. And we pledge to continue supporting Ukraine, this nation of European heroes, until it prevails. Slava Ukraini!