Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra introducing President Zelenskyy

Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra introducing President Zelenskyy, The Hague, 4 May 2023. The spoken word applies.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today is an important day in the Netherlands.

Today we remember those who lost their lives in the Second World War,

and in wars and peace operations since then.

It’s a privilege and an honour to welcome an extraordinary guest today.

President Zelenskyy – we’re truly honoured to have you here.

Welcome to The Hague,

the city of peace and justice.

The war in our country ended almost eight decades ago.

Yet the memories still resonate.

Almost every family still tells stories of the war.

Stories of loss, of fear, of hunger.

But also stories of bravery and resistance.

Of heroes who fought for freedom and peace.

78 years later, this war is still a part of who we are.

So every year on this day, we remember,

Every year we think of those we lost.

And tomorrow,  

on Liberation Day,

we remember that freedom must never be taken for granted.

People have fought and died for it, and they fight and die for it still.

In Ukraine, this freedom is under severe threat.

Every day, Russian missiles, tanks, drones and soldiers attack it.

And every day, brave Ukrainians step up to protect what’s theirs.

President Zelenskyy,

Every day since the illegal Russian invasion, you and your people have shown us what it means to fight for freedom.

We deeply admire you for doing that.

Please know that the Netherlands stands with you.

We have supported you and will continue to support you.

First of all; with weapons.

Because the harsh reality is, that there is no substitute for success on the battlefield.

But also with humanitarian aid, with harboring refugees.

And we will help you to rebuild your wonderful country – just as others helped to rebuild ours.

Illegal wars cannot go unpunished.

There cannot be peace without justice.

It’s the only answer to aggression and war crimes.

It’s the only answer that will ensure lasting peace.

That’s a lesson we learned from the war all those years ago.

It is a lesson we must continue to apply today. 

Ukrainian prosecutors have registered 85 thousand Russian war crimes since the beginning of the war.

That’s hundreds of crimes every single day.

Men, women, and children are being cowardly raped, tortured, and murdered.

Schools, hospitals, and houses are being bombed.

Children are being kidnapped.

Every single day.

These are ordinary, innocent people who have done nothing to deserve this terrible fate.

We can never accept this.

We will do everything in our power to ensure that Russia is held to account.

We can only do this together.

Together with the international community.

Together with all those who want peace, and believe in justice.

That’s why we – in the Netherlands – strongly support accountability initiatives,

it’s why we sent forensic investigation teams to Ukraine,

and it’s why we’re ready and willing to host prosecution centres, damage registries, and courts here in The Hague.

These are important steps.

But these are only first steps.

The road to accountability is long, and full of setbacks.

It requires perseverance, and a special kind of resoluteness.

The kind I see every time I speak with you, Mr President.

The kind I see in Ukrainians every time I visit your country.

Mr President,

We’re in this together.

We’ll continue to support you in your fight for freedom, sovereignty and a just peace.

Until you celebrate your own Liberation Day.

Mr President, dear Volodymyr, the floor is yours.

Thank you.