Speech by Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands to the members of the Ukrainian Parliament

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has addressed the Ukraine parliament in an video message.

Enlarge image Prime Minister Mark Rutte addresses Ukrainian Parliament
Image: ©Ministerie van AZ
Prime Minister Mark Rutte addresses the Ukrainian parliament.

Video Prime Minister Mark Rutte addresses Ukrainian Parliament (YouTube.com, with subtitles)

Mr Speaker,
Members of the Rada,
People of Ukraine,

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your kind introduction.
And thank you all for the opportunity to address you today.
It’s a great honour.
From here in the Netherlands I want to convey one simple message.
That my country stands with you.
That the other members of the European family stand with you.
And that we will remain with you, every inch of the way, until peace, freedom and democracy in Ukraine are restored and justice is done.
There can be no other outcome.
Let me be crystal clear: the people of Ukraine can count on the unwavering support of the Netherlands.
And we will do our utmost to provide the thousands who seek refuge in our country with everything they need until they can safely return to their homes and families.

Last week, on the fifth of May, it was Liberation Day in the Netherlands.
Every year, we celebrate freedom on the day the Second World War ended in our country.
But this year, the feeling was different, because of the war in Ukraine.
More than ever, we all realised that freedom  does not come free.
Freedom comes at a cost.
And friends in need must not be left to fend for themselves.
Traditionally, on Liberation Day, freedom fires are lit all over the Netherlands.
This year the flames were blue and yellow.
As were our hearts.
As were our minds.

Only a few weeks before the brutal Russian attacks began, I walked the streets of your beautiful and proud capital.
Kyiv is a city with a long and rich history.
I remember all too well a sense of calm before the storm that day.
People were already bracing themselves for the unthinkable acts of aggression that would soon follow.
And what impressed me most, even then, was the resolve of everyone I met.
The resolve to not give in.
The willingness to defend freedom and democracy.
The readiness to fight for the future of Ukraine, if it should come to that.

We now know that, sadly, it did come to that.
Russia’s aggression against your country has been ruthless, unjust and devastating.
It is based on false reasoning and utter lies.
It has led to thousands of people losing their lives, schools and hospitals being bombed, cities being destroyed and people fleeing their homes and families.
Russia’s military power is enormous, which makes the fighting spirit of Ukraine’s armed forces and the courage of its people all the more admirable.
Your president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has become the embodiment of that spirit and courage.
Many times when we spoke on the phone in the first weeks of the war, I asked myself: could this be the last time?
It was a truly horrible thought.
So yes, we admire Ukraine’s courage more than I can express in words.
It’s like David against Goliath.
And we all know who won that fight.

‘It’s like David against Goliath. And we all know who won that fight.’

President Putin may have assumed that he could isolate Ukraine and divide the democratic forces in the West with a quick military victory.
But he was wrong.
In fact, that was a serious miscalculation, because the opposite has happened.
The forces of democracy in the West are more united than ever.
And with good reason.
Because this war is about the future of democracy and the international rule of law.
It’s about a sovereign people’s right to choose its own path.
It’s about freedom.
Yours and ours.
And so, this war is about our common future.

That’s why the collective sanctions imposed on Russia and its leadership are unparalleled in history.
Never before has this instrument been applied so swiftly, so strictly and on such a scale.
And I believe we should take the next big step as quickly as possible, and stop buying Russian oil.
Let me say clearly that the Netherlands is ready to take this step together with our partners and our allies without delay.
Let me also say that the sanctions must stay in place until Russia’s aggression has ended and Ukraine’s sovereignty has been restored.
We will stay with you every inch of the way.

And of course, the same goes for our shipments of military equipment.
The Netherlands is one of many countries that is supporting Ukraine in this way.
It started with anti-tank and anti-aircraft equipment in the first brutal phase of the war.
Now, in the new phase of the battle of the Donbas, we are sending the most modern self-propelled artillery – the armoured howitzer 2000 – in close cooperation with Germany.
And together with our friends and allies, we will step up once more if further military goods are needed in a new phase of the war.
Again: we will stay with you every inch of the way.

And to me, ‘every inch of the way’ also means helping you after the war, on the road to recovery, reconstruction and justice.
When President Zelenskyy addressed the Dutch parliament a few weeks ago, he rightly talked about this.
He specifically referred to the horrific human rights violations and war crimes the world is now hearing about every day.
We’re hearing about Russian troops using sexual violence as a weapon of war.
We’re hearing about deportation, torture and even the cold-blooded murder of innocent civilians.

For justice to be done, it is absolutely imperative that the fact-finding process starts now.
The truth must be uncovered as soon as possible.
And we in the Netherlands, with The Hague as the legal capital of the world, feel a special responsibility in this regard.
That is why the Netherlands is sending a large team of forensic experts to Ukraine, in close cooperation with the International Criminal Court.
So that, in due course, justice can be done.

The Netherlands knows from experience that achieving international justice can be a long and painstaking process.
For almost eight years now, we have been closing in on the Russians responsible for the downing of flight MH17 near Donetsk.
And step by step, we are getting there.
I’m grateful for Ukraine’s unwavering support in this fight for justice.
And now I promise you this: the Netherlands will work just as hard to ensure justice when it comes to the despicable acts that Russia is committing against your country and its brave people.
We are with you every inch of the way.
However long and hard the road may be.

‘We are with you every inch of the way. However long and hard the road may be.’

Let me conclude by saying this.
Before this war started, Ukraine was already a valued member of the European family.
And of course, since 2017 it has had a formal association agreement with the European Union.
To me, it’s clear that this family bond is growing closer every day.
The key thing now is for the members of the EU to remain united in their support for Ukraine and in the fight against Russian aggression.
Even if the cost is high.
It’s important that we seize every opportunity to advance the cooperation between Ukraine and the EU.
And that we work together on recovery and reconstruction in a way that brings Ukraine closer to the European Union.

But today, the bottom line is this: family is family, and there’s a war to be won.
And win you shall.
To cite the Ukrainian national anthem:

Ukraine has not yet perished, nor her glory, nor her freedom,
Upon us, fellow Ukrainians, fate will smile once more.
Our enemies shall vanish, like the dew in the sun,
And we too shall rule, brothers, in a free land of our own.

My friends, I believe that with all my heart.
That democracy will prevail.
That freedom will prevail.
That Ukraine will prevail.
Thank you for listening, and know that we will remain with you every inch of the way.

Slava Ukraini.