Representatives of Ukraine, Iceland and the Council of Europe have taken part in a ceremony at the organisation’s Strasbourg headquarters to mark the passing of one year since the start of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. In her address the Foreign Minister of Iceland and President of the Committee of Ministers, Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörd Gylfadóttir, paid tribute to the people of Ukraine: “We have witnessed the ferocity with which the brave people of Ukraine have fought to defend their right to choose the path of democracy, human rights and the rule of law for their people and for their future. These are the values of the Council of Europe and they must not be taken for granted”.
Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić said “Despite the personal suffering and the pain that comes with knowing the suffering of loved ones. Despite the fact that millions have had to leave their country in search of safety – Ukrainians have not surrendered. They have fought back and stood firm. This is a country – a people – that has met cruel injustice with firm resolve”.
The President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Tiny Kox, emphasised that “The moment the Russian army crossed Ukraine’s borders, Russia also crossed the red lines of the Council of Europe. Russia’s membership of Europe’s oldest and broadest treaty-based organisation was suspended within a day and ended within three weeks. By acting in this way, for the first time ever, the 46 remaining member States made it completely clear that going into war is in no way compatible with a member State’s solemn commitment to protect and promote peace in Europe”.
Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe, Ambassador Borys Tarasyuk, outlined the democratic values that underpinned his country’s continuing resistance to the Russian aggression: “Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine for a year has shown that Ukraine is a stronghold of democracy. The Kremlin's plans to destroy Ukrainian statehood have failed. Ukraine will never give up on freedom, humanity, respect for the individual, following state obligations, and following international law. Ukraine, unlike Russia, continues to be a nation run by and for the people, not by a dictator for his own personal gain”.
The ceremony, which took place in front of the Council of Europe’s Palais de l’Europe building, was attended by several hundred people.