The unity of Ukraine and the determination of Europe will stop Russian aggression, writes Dmytro Shurko

A rally in support of Ukraine was held in Brussels Luxembourg Square, located right in the centre of Brussels, alongside the European Parliament, with the participation of MEPs coming out together to show their support of a country, which, at least at the moment, is not yet a member of the European Union, writes Dmytro Shurko.

"Centrists", "rightists" and "leftists", heads of leading parliamentary committees, speakers on Ukraine and MEPs belonging to the informal group of "Friends of Ukraine" MPs, and even former MEPs - at least 20 leading European politicians whose voices rang out with a single slogan: "No war!

EUROPE'S MAIN SLOGAN - STOP THE WAR.

It all started with an open letter from representatives of the Ukrainian community in Belgium to MEPs, which was drafted at the initiative of the Belgian NGO "Promote Ukraine", asking them to support the "#StandWithUkraine" campaign, which is held with the sole aim of protecting Ukraine from new aggression by Russia and preventing a new war in Europe.

The initiative was widely supported by members of the European Parliament. The letter, which was supported by almost all public organisations and activists of the "Belgian Ukrainians", reminded us of the obvious thing - it was in February 2014 that Russian troops began to seize Crimea, which has now been under occupation for eight years.

These events were the trigger for a series of further tragedies - the invasion of Donbas by the Russian aggressor, the war, thousands of deaths and millions of refugees, the downing of flight MH-17 by Russian criminals, causing suffering and pain to many thousands of people in Ukraine and around the world.

Then, in 2014, resistance to the aggressor united Ukrainian society, and it was the people of Ukraine who were able to stop all kinds of "Novorossiya", "southern corridors" and other crazy plans of the Kremlin.

Today, this war that Russia has been waging against Ukraine for eight consecutive years threatens to take on a new dimension. The concentration of tens of thousands of Russian troops on Ukraine's borders, on almost all sides, equipped with heavy weaponry, the pulling up of rear infrastructure and field hospitals leaves very little room for doubt - the Kremlin is preparing for a new military adventure, which this time threatens not only Ukraine, but all of Europe and the world.

It is clear that these warnings about the Kremlin's global intentions and the danger to the world order that these plans entail, which the Ukrainian public has been shouting about since 2014 and has been unable to get through to Western politicians, have finally been heard.

At the very least, Europe has realised that it is now not just about Putin's threats against Ukraine. The issue is much broader - it calls into question the entire European security architecture, all those democratic principles of freedom, equality and human values on which the entire huge structure of the European Union is built.

THIS THREAT IS NOT ONLY DIRECTED AGAINST UKRAINE.

"The issue is, in fact, much broader. It is not just about Ukraine, but about Putin's aggressive policy as such. Putin is not only focused on Ukraine, he is trying to extend his influence to Belarus, the South Caucasus, many other countries around him.

So if we are serious about our approach to global security, and European security in particular, we need to be very sensitive to the situation unfolding on Ukraine's borders," said Petras Austrevičius, a member of the European Parliament and head of the informal Friends of Ukraine group in this key Euro-institution.

He noted that Europe has finally heard the danger signal and is ready to respond with a united front. At the same time, in his opinion, such unity is now vital for Ukrainian politicians and the entire Ukrainian society.

"EU unity is growing. If you compare 2022 with 2014, they have almost nothing in common. Now Europe understands where the threat is coming from and against whom it is directed. There has been a change in the assessment of the situation - and this is positive. We have to do this in the international dimension as well. It is not only about supporting Ukraine, but also about reducing our dependence on Russia. The less we depend on it, the more responsibly the Russian side will act."

As another MEP, Ukraine rapporteur Michael Gahler, stressed in an interview with Ukrinform, the purpose of the public action outside the European Parliament was to express solidarity with Ukraine and to express a clear position of the European Parliament itself.

"The main idea is to focus on the threats faced by Ukraine as a result of this Russian aggression, the build-up of military power. We must demonstrate very clearly that Europe and the democratic world remain united against this threat. We support all achievements of Ukraine, its territorial integrity, its freedom and democracy. We support all efforts to strengthen Ukraine politically, militarily, so that society feels that they are not alone, that Europe is with Ukraine," the European politician said. In response to a clarifying question about the way out of the current security crisis, Michael Gahler stressed that it was Russia that had provoked the rising tensions that must be de-escalated. "They (the Russians) came with their troops - they have to withdraw them. All other issues - be it arms control or confidence-building measures - are all good, but not at the expense of Ukraine's sovereign right to take care of its own security and choose its own security orientation. This is non-negotiable," Deputy Gahler added.

MOST POLITICAL GROUPS IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR UKRAINE

This view was echoed by another influential German politician, Viola von Cramon, an influential representative of the Greens group in the European Parliament. She stressed that the current political action outside the European Parliament was multi-party and demonstrated the unity of European MPs in showing solidarity with Ukraine and their ability to speak with one voice. "We are ready to support Ukraine so that this does not happen on its eastern borders. We need to be very firm on sanctions and respond quickly to Russia in the event of any military intervention in Ukraine. This policy does not depend only on Brussels, we need the efforts of all 27 member states. In this context, energy security issues are also very important," said the German politician, who has consistently criticised Russia's Nord Stream 2 project. Viola von Cramon noted that it was Putin's actions that "awakened" Western politicians and made them remember the importance of action for European security. "I see more unity among European partners than was the case before these threats emerged. Look at Sweden and Finland - they are now even considering whether to become part of NATO. This would never have happened if there were no threats from Putin," added Viola von Cramon.

THOSE WHO WANT PEACE DO NOT AMASS 130,000 SOLDIERS ON THE BORDERS OF THEIR NEIGHBOURS.

That such political support from European politicians is very important for the sustainability of Ukraine and for the entire Ukrainian society was stated during the event by Zenon Koval, a well-known representative of the Ukrainian diaspora in Belgium, Belgian diplomat and member of the International Policy Council of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC). "We must give people a chance to feel that Ukraine is not alone. Here we are now advocating not only for Ukraine, but also for the security and freedom of Europe. Current events in Ukraine are of great importance. Russia is violating every possible agreement signed after the Second World War - if we mention the Helsinki Accords of '75 or the Charter of Paris - on the inviolability of borders. Russia is thus destroying the balance that existed after the Second World War. This is now being discussed not only in the EU, but also in the UN. This is already a global problem, not only Ukrainian or European," Zenon Koval said.

He noted that in 2014 Ukraine was fighting for Ukraine itself and its further democratic path. At the moment, this struggle continues, but the peculiarity of the year 2022 is the need to defend against an external threat. "As they say, 130,000 Russian troops are now concentrated on the borders, on all sides of Ukraine - they threaten from Crimea, Transdniestria, Belarus, Russia itself and occupied Donbas. This is all a very serious issue. People who seek peace do not accumulate such armed forces around their neighbours," the Belgian diplomat said.

SOLIDARITY FROM HEART TO HEART.

Ambassador Vsevolod Chentsov, Ukraine's representative to the EU, thanked the organisers of the action - the Ukrainian community in Belgium and MEPs.

"This action is a sign of solidarity between the European Parliament and Ukraine in a situation of extreme tension. The European Parliament is playing its role in helping to find the right way to resolve this situation. Next week the European Parliament will hold a separate debate on the current escalation around Ukraine and Russian pressure with EU High Representative Josep Borrell. This will give an additional chance to draw the attention of the European community to our war with the Russian Federation in order to avoid the development of the conflict," the Ukrainian ambassador said.

He noted that the embassy had nothing to do with the organization of this action. "This was an initiative of the diaspora and the European Parliament, in which we are only participating. It is very pleasing. This initiative goes from the heart," stressed Vsevolod Centsov.

Dmytro Shkurko, Ukrinform, from Brussels.


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