Today is a terrible day for Ukraine.
And a dark day for Europe.
We are all concerned about peace.
I can well imagine the questions you will be asking yourselves this evening.
I am no different.
The situation is very serious.
We are currently witnessing the start of a war, a war the likes of which we have not seen in Europe more than 75 years.
Russia’s President Putin has decided to launch a military attack against Ukraine.
This is an attack on an independent sovereign country.
Nothing and nobody can justify it.
It is an attempt to shift borders within Europe with force, perhaps even an attempt to erase an entire country from the world map.
President Putin has very deliberately breached the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter and the European peace order.
He is endangering the lives of countless citizens of Ukraine – Russia’s sister nation.
All of this is taking place not far away from us – it is happening here in Europe.
Just a two-hour flight away from Berlin, families are sitting in air raid shelters at this very moment.
Men, women and children fear for their lives.
Ukrainians are arming themselves to defend their home country against an invading army.
Our thoughts are with the brave citizens of Ukraine at this difficult time.
I told President Zelensky on the phone this morning that the Ukrainian people and its freely elected government have our wholehearted solidarity.
We will not accept this violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia.
The attack against Ukraine is President Putin’s attempt to turn back time.
However, it is not possible to return to the 19th century when major powers made decisions over the heads of smaller nations.
It is not possible to return to the Cold War when superpowers divided the world up among themselves into spheres of influence.
And it is not possible to return to the time before 1989. Back then, citizens in Central and Eastern Europe fought to gain their freedom and democracy. In our country, too. And in Ukraine.
That is why we have warned President Putin time and again not to wage a war against Ukraine.
Just over a week ago, I discussed this matter with him face-to-face for several hours in the Kremlin and told him quite clearly that this war would be a grave error. I told him that he would also inflict serious damage on the Russian people and blight his own country’s future.
President Putin has disregarded all the warnings and efforts to bring about a diplomatic solution.
He alone, not the Russian people, has decided to start this war.
He alone bears full responsibility for it.
This war is Putin’s war.
Once more I urge President Putin:
- Cease hostilities immediately!
- Withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine!
- Revoke the unlawful recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts!
Until the last minute, we in the international community placed our faith in dialogue and sought to engage Moscow in talks.
We were hopeful but not naive.
That is why, in parallel, we prepared for the grave situation which has now arisen.
We have agreed on an entire package of economic sanctions with our allies and partners in the European Union, in NATO and in the G7.
Our goal is to spell out to the Russian leadership that it will pay a high price for this aggression.
We imposed the first sanctions following Russia’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. And we have suspended the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. We are imposing further, tough sanctions in response to today’s attack against Ukraine.
They will hit Russia’s economy hard.
At the same time, we have to ensure that this conflict does not spread to other European countries. I, the American President and our European friends are agreed that we have to do everything in our power to prevent that.
Putin should not underestimate NATO’s determination to defend all of its members. That expressly applies to our NATO partners in the Baltic, in Poland, in Romania, in Bulgaria and in Slovakia. It applies unconditionally. Germany and its allies know how to protect themselves.
We are determined and will act with unity of purpose. That is our strength as free democracies.
Putin will not win. The citizens of Ukraine want democracy and freedom.
And Europe’s future will be a future in peace and freedom.
We will ensure that – together with our friends and partners.