Russia's aggression against Ukraine can continue for years - president

  • 2024-02-22
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Russia's aggression against Ukraine can continue for years on end, President Edgars Rinkevics warned in his address at an extraordinary Saeima sitting called on Thursday to mark two years since Russia's full-scale military invasion of Ukraine. 

Rinkevics noted that Russia's war against Ukraine started ten years ago with the annexation of Crimea, which the West put up with and chose to ignore. Two years ago, the president said, a war broke out in the heart of Europe, in which Ukraine has been defending not only its land, but also its people, democracy and common sense in the world.

"Two years is a lot. Two years is enough for preschoolers in Latvia to not remember a time when there was no war in the news. Two years is enough for Ukrainian kids to not remember how it is to sleep peacefully. Two years is enough for the Ukrainian kids to not remember how it is to be sure that tomorrow they will wake up together with their parents," Rinkevics said. 

In his address to parliament, Rinkevics mentioned Bucha, Irpin and Borodyanka - the Ukrainian towns near Kyiv that were the first to experience first hand what "Russian world" would mean to them - lawlessness, robberies, torture, rape and killings. 

The president recalled his visit to the village of Yahidne in Chernihiv Region last November. In this village, Russians had held over 300 people in a school basement for 27 days in inhumane conditions, in darkness, without food, with children lying next to the dead.

"There you have the "Russian world". Sometimes, it seems that Russia acts out of spite and as heinously as it can. And then it proves that it can be even worse. Evil gets even more evil. Darkness becomes even darker. Let's not live in illusions. Sadly, Russia's aggression against Ukraine can go on for years on end," Rinkevics said.

Two years is far too long, and people in the world, including Latvia, are starting to get tired. However, war fatigue and getting tired of helping and being vigilant is a great luxury, Rinkevics said. Nobody has given the people of Ukraine a chance to get tired. Nor does anyone ask them if they are not tired of receiving news of the deaths of their loved ones, they are not asked if they are not tired of fighting on the front. The president stressed that Ukrainians have no choice.

"But we do. I have a choice. You have a choice. Latvia has a choice. And we still have to continue to choose not just not to grow tired, but to act. Now. Today. We like to discuss a lot, but not always to take decisions. We have created expectations, but we need results. Now. Because it is what we do now that counts, not what we have in mind! Both in terms of support to Ukraine and in terms of doing our homework to strengthen our own security," the Latvian president said.

He stressed that the Saeima, government and public authorities must act immediately. In the president's view, the prolonged construction Latvia's eastern border must be completed. The initial phase of the military protection of the country's border must be implemented now. Roads must be dug up and blocking structures delivered to the border. This too must be done now.

"Preparations for the deployment of the NATO brigade must be ensured. Our National Defense Service and National Guard must be strengthened. All this is the basis of our security. Firefighters, policemen and border guards must be given a pay rise perspective. It is time for the judiciary to realize that crimes against the state are not ordinary hooliganism. Punishments must be severe and just," the president underlined.

The president wen on to say that local governments and residents must be provided with clear algorithms of action in case of an emergency, including the availability of shelters. It is also necessary to severe economic ties with Russia, Rinkevics said, adding that the money Latvian entrepreneurs hope to make in Russia would not bring prosperity to Latvia. 

The president stressed the need to stop financing the Russian war machine by importing Russian grain. He also said that sanctions circumvention supports Russia's selfishness and aggression. In Rinkevics' view, this is a matter not just of the moral choices of the government or public authorities, but also of Latvian companies and society.

"Bans will not help much if we do not act together. I am not naive. It won't happen immediately, but we have to start. We need to invest in the defense industry, developing innovation and production capacity. Latvia is leading the drone coalition. At a time when Ukraine is running out of artillery shells, drones are helping Ukrainian defenders to destroy Russian troops and equipment. Finally, we also need to adopt a long-term military support program for Ukraine," the president said in his address.

Latvia has endlessly explained to the world why it is necessary to support Ukraine and defeat the evil empire, but this is not enough. Latvia should continue to be Ukraine's strong shoulder and ally in all international organizations, Rinkevics said.

The president assured that Latvia would continue to support Ukraine's efforts to find a just peace, both by continuing to be actively involved in the establishment of an international tribunal under the auspices of the UN to ensure accountability of the Russian leadership, and by cooperating with international organizations to bring home the abducted Ukrainian children.

Addressing the Saeima, the president stressed that by supporting Ukraine, we are protecting our freedom. We must do this to the best of our ability and more. He mentioned that Latvia has supported Ukraine from day one, but in order to win, Ukraine needs our support in the future - in deeds and in words.

"It is not possible to protect freedom too much. Without freedom, we will not be able to choose to get tired. Without freedom, we will have no choice at all. So I call on you to get up, don't get tired and do it now! Act now," the president urged.

As reported, in the early hours of February 24, 2022, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine.