42nd Session, Strasbourg 22-22 March 2022

Statement by Oleksiy CHERNYSHOV, Minister for Communities and Territories Development, Ukraine

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Debate on the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine
Strasbourg, France, 22 March 2022

Debate on The Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine

1.             Message to the auditory

Good day!

Dear Mr. Leendert Verbeek, President of the Congress

Dear delegates!

Thank you very much for the opportunity on behalf of the Ukrainian Government to appeal to you and to European self-governance.

The Congress represents 150 thousand of the European municipalities and regions. All these municipalities, you and we mutually are the huge force that can and should say its word today to stop the bloody aggressor that launched this full-scale brutal war.

We agree that local self-government is a power that has a special mandate - to defend the vital interests of citizens. This is the government that is closest to people, that is in contact with ordinary citizens every day and, perhaps, better than anyone understands what they live for and what worries them.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced that the voice of the municipalities of a democratic Europe can enforce the anti-war coalition that is in the process of creation right now.

And I am here today to address all the Congress participants as a great municipal force that can influence decisions that will stop the aggressor.

2.             This is full-scale, bloody war.

Even when I say these words about the war, I find it hard to believe that it is a reality, that it is happening in my country, in the heart of Europe, in the 21st century. But this is not a terrible dream, this is a terrible reality. It's impossible to find the words, it's not possible to show everything with photos or videos.

I want to show you some photos that personally for me create very strong feelings and I would like you to understand what these feelings are and why they occur.

• This is the house in Kyiv, almost in the city center. It was hit by a Russian missile. Early in the morning. In one of the first days of the war. This is not September 11, 2001 in New York, it is February 26, 2022 in Kyiv. BUT TELL ME THAT THIS IS NOT THE SAME TERRORIST ATTACK?!

• This is Borodyanka, a town near Kyiv, which lived a normal life a month ago, a community that adopted a strategy for its development until 2025 in 2019 and on whose website this strategy can still be found today. Now Borodyanka looks like this. Tell me, if this is not a war against people who want to live a normal life and have a normal future, then what is it?!

• This is Mariupol in the Donetsk region, just a few kilometers from the territories of Ukraine that were occupied by Russia in 2014. A city that in recent years has become a symbol of development and revival for all of us, in which numerous projects have been implemented jointly with international partners, including with the support of the Council of Europe. Now it is a city where residential neighborhoods are bombed every day (more than 70% of the housing stock is completely destroyed or damaged), where a powerful bomb was dropped on the local theater, despite the fact that a warning was written on the asphalt - there are children. TELL ME HOW TO CALL IT? NATZISM, TERRORISM OR BARBARISM?

•This is a square in Lviv. Every empty baby pram is symbolized a child killed these days. Think about these words, they can't sound ordinary - THEY KILLED A CHILD. HUNDREDS OF HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN KILLED. Who are they, those who give these orders and who carry them out? Do they have the right to be called people? LET'S GET UP AND KEEP SILENT FOR A MOMENT IN MEMORY OF THESE CHILDREN.

• This is a railway station in Kharkiv. A russian-speaking city where putin expected to be greeted with flowers as a "liberator." People are trying to escape from such "liberation"! TODAY, 10 MILLION UKRAINIANS HAVE LEFT THEIR HOMES TO SAVE FROM THE TERROR OF WAR. This is more than even the population of some countries whose representatives are present here. Do we need any more figures to understand the scale of the tragedy that is unfolding today?!

• This is the mayor of Gostomel city in the Kyiv region, very close to the capital of Ukraine, who was killed by the occupiers while he was distributing bread and other aid to the residents of his community. Russian terrorists are mass kidnapping and torturing local government officials and your colleagues. Is it possible to ignore such actions and leave them without condemnation?!

Dear colleagues!

I could tell you a lot more and show you about this war, after all you have heard and seen a lot. This is the WAR! Scary, cruel, bloody! It is accompanied by terrorist acts, and its ideological component and can serve as a prelude to the Kremlin's desire for genocide of Ukrainians.

Dear friends!

Our colleagues - the leaders of Ukrainian cities who are desperately fighting the invaders - are currently being held captive and subjected to inhuman torture by the occupiers. We managed to free one of them - the mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov - after six days of captivity. For the rest, we need your help and your voice to reach out to the inhumans and force them to release the illegally imprisoned members of the unconquered people.

According to the adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Vadym Denysenko, now there are three such mayors - in Skadovsk in Kherson region, Berdyansk and Dniprorudne in Zaporizhzhya region.

3.             Threats to Europe and the world.

Forgive me for not being able to control my emotions, but it is impossible to say otherwise about what is happening in my country. Yes, you have seen and heard a lot about this war. I know for sure that you are not indifferent to our fate. All of you, your municipalities, your countries, are helping us a lot now. And we are sincerely grateful to you for that.

But I would like you to understand a little more. You, the people of European countries, see this war from TV screens and newspaper columns. And I understand very well that you would not want what you are currently separated from by these screens to become your reality, because it has become our reality.

But this war is not as far away as it may seem. Unfortunately, it is already knocking on everyone's door. Putin threatens the whole world with full-scale war, blackmails with nuclear weapons, his demand is clear - do not prevent the destruction of the Ukrainian people.

But remember Chernobyl. This and another Ukrainian nuclear power plant – which is in 6 times bigger - are already in the hands of the RASHISTS. Can we be sure that they will not blackmail to blow up of them? Can you be sure that the next missile will not hit another Ukrainian nuclear power plant? Can we be sure that a terrorist will not invent other forms of blackmail?

Do you think he needs only the Ukrainian Donbas, annexed Crimea? Or only Ukraine?

No, Putin needs more. He needs to bring back the Soviet Union, split Europe, keep the whole world in fear. I want you to understand - he will not stop. Ukraine is not the last. Which country will be next?! It is only a matter of time.

Speaking at a meeting with colleagues from neighboring European countries on Friday, one of our mayors said: "There is only one war that may be Putin's last, and that is a war in which he will be defeated. In other case after any other war - will be next.

So, there is only one way out - this war must be stopped and we will be able to do it if we are not indifferent and if we are united and decisive.

4.             Gratitude for the decision to expel Russia from the Council of Europe and other assistance.

We are grateful that the Russian flag is no longer on the flagpole in front of the Council of Europe headquarter, and its representatives are no longer in this hall. They, the representatives of the terrorist country, really have no right to be present here, because the highest priorities of the Council of Europe are the protection of human rights and democracy, which is an empty sound for Russia and Russians. Yes, I was right about the Russians, as about 80% of them support the war not only in Ukraine but also in other European countries.

Today, we are more aware than ever of the importance of democratic governance at the local level. We saw the results of the "decentralization" reform in Ukraine, which before the war was one of the most popular and successful for 7 years, thanks particularly to the support of the Council of Europe and the governments of your countries. Due to this reform that communities today are able to take on a significant share of the tasks in the humanitarian sphere and even defense in the territorial defense system.

We expect the Council of Europe as a whole and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to be consistent to take new decisions in the light of new challenges. We hope that today Congress will condemn Russia's actions as a terrorist and war criminal state.

At the same time, in your representation, we are grateful to all those municipalities that today provide assistance to their colleagues from Ukraine, sending humanitarian aid and providing shelter to Ukrainian refugees.

5.             About the next steps.

Our partners and friends have done a lot in the support of Ukraine. We feel it and thank you very much.

But we ask you to strengthen the pressure towards aggressor. As representatives of local self-government, you enjoy authority among your citizens and can address them directly. Many of you are members of political parties that influence policy-making in your countries and in European institutions. You are members of associations that unite local governments in your countries. You need to call on all of them to support actions that can stop the aggressor and help restore peace in Europe.

First of all, help us in every way possible to protect our communities and our ordinary citizens. We need those solutions that will CLOSE THE SKY over Ukraine. We must do everything possible to prevent bombs from falling, rockets from falling on civilians, and entire cities and villages from being wiped off the face of the earth. This should become an important humanitarian mission to provide so-called "green corridors", thus saving hundreds of thousands of lives of homeless people, without food, without water, who are now unable to leave the area of active hostilities due to constant shelling.

Think about it: russian criminals are bombing the city of Mariupol every 15 minutes! Since the beginning of my speech, explosions have been heard and people may have died. During the time we speak… I cannot believe that such decisions are impossible for your governments. And your voice can be crucial to find the real solutions.

Second. Those companies that continue to work with russia today and fill its budget with their taxes are de facto sponsors of this terrorism. Their headquarters are in your cities. Their employees are residents of your cities. Knock to them.

How much longer will they continue to fund terrorists? How much longer will russian ships be serviced in your ports and russian and belarusian trucks cross your borders? In every euro you earn from russia, there are bloody bullets, shells, bombs that take the lives of Ukrainians. None of a European company should cooperate with russia if we want this war to become economically impossible for putin. We must treat them as we would behave terrorist, any cooperation with which is strictly taboo.

Third. Information war is another one led by russia. And against its citizens, and against us and you. Unfortunately, there are still people in Europe who believe in putin's fakes, and in russia there seems to be an absolute majority of them. Stop any possibility of spreading these fakes. Russian propaganda channels must be excluded in any European country, and the attitude towards putin's propaganda must be the same as the attitude towards the propaganda of nazism.

One way to fight may be to follow the initiative of the mayors of Austrian cities, led by Carmen Kiefer, to try to "reach" their colleagues in Russia, that was launched last week. I am convinced that the letters they sent to mayors and politicians at the regional level from the cities of Russia from where regular military units were sent to Ukraine opened the eyes of many Russians to what is really happening in the heart of Europe. We urge you not to stop and continue the struggle on the information front.

Fourth. We ask you to establish a horizontal - direct partnership with the municipalities of Ukraine. You will be able to help overcome the difficulties our communities have faced with.

I also invite you to join the initiative of the International Marathon "Unity of Local Government for the Welfare of People and Peace" under the auspices of the Council of Europe, which our Ministry is holding in partnership with the Association of Ukrainian Cities and the Association of Amalgamated Territorial Communities. We are convinced that this will help intensify the partnership between the local self-government of Ukraine and the world in order to increase pressure on the aggressor and end the war against sovereign Ukraine.

Today we have held the first teleconference under this initiative - together with representatives of local governments of Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. I sincerely invite colleagues from other countries to join us and together tell the world that this war must end as soon as possible.

And finally. We appeal to you - many of your municipalities have had partnerships with Russian cities. We urge you to end this relationship - Russia must feel growing isolation at all levels!

We also ask you to oppose the kidnapping and persecution of your colleagues - heads of communities and representatives of local self-government in the temporarily occupied territories of our country. Imagine that right now you were in the shoes of your colleagues from Skadovsk or Dniprorudne!

You know, we in Ukraine these days have shown that local self-government is a force, because every community has become a “tough nut” for the enemy. Show that local self-government is a force throughout Europe. Only together can we fight this bloody war!

I want to finish with famous words “together we stand, divided we fall”!

Thank you for your attention and understanding.