On this day in 1991, Ukraine officially left the Soviet Union and became a sovereign, democratic country. What should be a celebration of Ukraine’s independence today is marred by Russia’s unjust and brutal war. People across the world watch in horror at the barbaric scenes taking place in Ukraine. Russia continues to inflict unconscionable suffering. The Kremlin has intentionally attacked schools, hospitals, churches, apartment buildings and food infrastructure facilities. Members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes, and evidence of atrocities continues to mount. Thousands have been killed, including many children. Ukraine has become the scene of the worst mass-scale violence that Europe has seen in eight decades.
More than six million people – more than the entire population of Ireland – have fled their homeland, uncertain if they will ever be able to return. Many of them have found refuge here, and we will never forget that Irish people generously opened their hearts and their homes and welcomed nearly 91,000 displaced Ukrainians.
One man chose this war. One man can end it. If Russia stops fighting, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends. We know President Putin’s playbook: wreak death and destruction; target civilian infrastructure; destroy agriculture and threaten livelihoods; freeze, starve, and kill Ukraine’s civilians; force them from their homes; drive up energy, food, and other household costs, not only across Europe but globally; try to splinter our coalition; and place the blame on everyone but himself.
Russia is also weaponising food at the expense of people around the world, especially the poor and food insecure.
Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) and targeting of Ukrainian grain intended for global markets are callous acts that place countless lives at risk. Ukraine has long been one of the world’s great sources of grain, with the vast majority of that grain shipped through Black Sea ports. In order to punish Ukraine, the Russian government is deliberately choosing to undermine global food security and price stability in Africa, Asia, and other regions dependent on exports from those ports.
Despite Russia’s claims to the contrary, more than half of the food, and two-thirds of the wheat, from BSGI has gone to developing countries, including some of the most food insecure regions of the globe such as the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Yemen, and Afghanistan. The initiative helped reduce hardship in the world’s poorest countries by bringing grain to world markets and contributing to lower food prices for all. Putin’s offer – likely specious – to donate grain to African countries would not come close to compensating for the millions of tons of Ukrainian grain that could be exported each month through BSGI.
Russia has already lost. Its objective was to erase the proud, sovereign, independent country of Ukraine from the map, and that failed a long time ago
Russia must stop its cruelty. It must permit the shipment of life-sustaining grain that feeds millions around the world. It must stop targeting stored grain and ports. It must stop threatening ships of non-combatant countries. Russia must stop weaponising food.
The 10 points of Ukraine’s peace formula are based on key principles of the UN Charter and international law, including respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries within their internationally recognised borders. Re-establishing Ukraine’s territorial integrity is the only way to secure a just and sustainable peace. Russia also must be held accountable for its actions in Ukraine, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. Every war criminal must be held accountable. Russia must be brought to justice for the civilian infrastructure facilities it has damaged or destroyed in Ukraine. Their number, as registered by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, has exceeded 120,000.
The principles underlying the peace formula are important not only for a just end to the war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine, but also a universal basis for ending other conflicts across the globe.
Russia has already lost. Its objective was to erase the proud, sovereign, independent country of Ukraine from the map, and that failed a long time ago. Putin expected a quick victory, but underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainian people, their strong desire to remain independent, and their capability to defend their hard-earned freedom and democracy.
Ireland’s support for Ukraine is especially meaningful because you carry moral authority with nations around the world. Ireland has always been a voice for liberty, global co-operation and equality for all. We have strength in unity. Together we will keep the flame of liberty burning bright. Freedom and justice will win. As President Zelenskiy said, “We stand, we fight and we will win because we are united – Ukraine, America and the entire free world.”
The United States and the people of Ukraine have stood together for 31 years, and we will continue to stand together to defend freedom and democracy. Together with a wide coalition of allies and partners, including Ireland, we have imposed extensive sanctions and export controls on Russia. These measures are degrading the Kremlin’s ability to carry out its imperial project. Together, we will continue to take additional measures to increase the pressure on the Kremlin.
While many challenges and difficult days lie ahead, we know that Ukraine is well prepared and equipped. We don’t know when this war will be over, but we know this: Ukraine will emerge victorious. As Russia’s war stretches on, Ukraine’s courage, strength and freedom will endure and prevail.
Larysa Gerasko is the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland and Claire D Cronin is United States ambassador to Ireland.