Ukraine is a sovereign state that makes choices about its future, but the Kremlin does not like that and it threatens Ukraine with war. Today, we face the largest build-up of troops on European soil since the darkest days of the Cold War.

“The people of Ukraine are bravely trying to get on with their [normal] lives. But many of them keep emergency bags by their front doors, with basic clothes and important documents, in case they have to rush away from home. Others have stockpiled food cans to prepare for the worst. Some have even set up shelters in their basements. These are not stories from the 1940s. This is Europe in 2022. And this is happening because of a deliberate policy of the Russian leadership,” President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said at the European Parliament plenary.

She reminded that Ukraine had suffered from the Kremlin’s constant aggression in the last seven years. But despite that heavy burden, Ukraine has taken important steps to fight corruption, rebuilt the infrastructure, and created new jobs for talented youth. The European Union has accompanied Ukraine in its efforts, putting together the largest support package in its history.

According to the European Commission President, the people of Ukraine know that their democracy still has some flaws and issues to deal with, but Ukraine today is a stronger, freer and more sovereign country than in 2014. And this is precisely why the Kremlin is threatening it again.

“We stand firm with Ukraine. The idea that the Kremlin should decide what Ukrainians can or cannot desire – we simply cannot accept. The idea of spheres of influence are ghosts of the last century. This crisis is about Ukraine – and more. It is about what it means to be a sovereign, independent and free country in the 21st century. It is about everyone’s right to live free from fear. It is about every country’s right to determine its own future. And this is the message that our Union is passing to the Kremlin,” the politician stressed.

She expressed hope that the Kremlin would decide not to unleash further violence in Europe, though Russia had certainly been sending conflicting signals yesterday. On the one hand, Russian authorities announced troop pullbacks. On the other hand, the State Duma voted for the formal recognition of illegal formations of certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent “republics.”

“Diplomacy has not yet spoken its last words. It is good to hear yesterday’s commitment to the Minsk Agreements. President Macron and Chancellor Scholz have travelled to Kyiv and Moscow. Several others are also speaking to both sides. I am constantly exchanging with all of them, as well as with President Biden, Prime Minister Trudeau and Prime Minister Johnson. The Transatlantic Community has for a long time not been so united,” the European Commission President stressed.

As Ursula von der Leyen stated, the European Union and its transatlantic partners are united in this crisis. And the call on Russia is crystal clear: do not choose war and cooperation is still possible. And should the Kremlin choose violence against Ukraine, our response will be strong and united.

Bohdan Marusyak

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