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EMBARGO UNTIL DELIVERY                                                                                

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY                                                                24.02.2023

Speech by

Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörd Gylfadóttir

Foreign Minister of Iceland and Chair of the Committee of Ministers

on the occasion of the

ceremony to mark one year of

Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,

(Strasbourg, 24 February 2023)

Dear colleagues, Dear friends,

The 24 of February 2022 is a date that will be remembered for generations to come. It was a dark day.

It is the day when a cold shiver of horror and immense sadness ran across Europe; the day when we woke up to a world that had changed.

It is a date that will live in infamy for Russia, the aggressor who launched an unprovoked and brutal full-scale invasion into a sovereign country.

For Ukraine, it is the date that marks the start of a heroic and historic defense.

For Europe and much of the rest of the world, it marks the date when many woke up to the realization that a world based on international law and commonly understood and rules is not to be taken for granted.

In the year that has since passed - we have also 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.

There is a real risk that our rights as individuals, protected by the European Convention on Human Rights will be diluted and lost - if they are not cherished and defended.

And today - the first line of this defense is on the frontlines in Ukraine.

The second line of defense is within the societies that have promised to protect these rights for their citizens, and have guaranteed them access to the court here in Strasbourg.

The flags of the countries that have given these promises to their citizens are raised here today.

And today they fly in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

And the flag of the country that has so viciously violated all that the Council of Europe stands for - has been removed.

Next May, Iceland will host the fourth summit of Heads of State and Government of the member states of the Council of Europe in Reykjavik.

We view the Reykjavik summit as our contribution to the defense of the values that the Council of Europe was established to protect.

And we also view it as our duty to provide through the summit a venue where meaningful steps can be taken to establish the mechanism for holding Russia accountable for the crimes they have committed against Ukraine and its people.

Justice must be done.

But today, we gather to pay tribute collectively and solemnly to all the victims of the war of aggression against Ukraine.

We want to turn our thoughts to those thousands of innocent children, women and men who have been killed, injured, or forever traumatized because of Russia´s unjustifiable decision to attack Ukraine.

We admire the courage and determination shown by the people of Ukraine. We draw inspiration from their bravery.

Our solidarity with them must not waiver. We stand with Ukraine.

Thank you.