Prime Minister’s introduction at press conference on support to Ukraine

The war in Ukraine is now in its fourth day. The pictures we are seeing are deeply distressing and we are receiving reports of a brutal conflict. The Ukrainian forces are fighting courageously and resisting the onslaught. We are witnessing a brutal attack on Ukraine by Russia, on multiple fronts.

The EU, many EU countries and other countries in Europe are now taking new steps to help Ukraine and ensure that the invasion of Ukraine has consequences for Russia, for the Russian leadership, who must be held accountable, and for the Russian economy.

Norway’s position is clear: we will do our part to support Ukraine and Norway will align itself with the sanctions adopted by the EU against Russia.    

The people of Ukraine are suffering. According to UN estimates, more than 350 000 Ukrainians have fled the country. If we also count internally displaced people, there may be millions of Ukrainians on the move who have been forced to flee their homes because of the war. 

We must ensure a decisive response. The Government has decided to allocate a total of NOK 2 billion to alleviate the humanitarian situation and help those who have had to leave their homes behind. The Minister of Foreign Affairs will speak more about this.

The Government has today also decided to freeze the investments of the Government Pension Fund Global (Norway’s sovereign wealth fund) in Russia, and to start the process of divesting the fund’s Russian assets. The Minister of Finance will come back to this. 

The Government has also decided to provide military equipment to those who are now defending Ukraine.

Norway has long had a policy of not permitting the export of defence-related products to countries where there is a war or the threat of war.

Norway has practised this policy since it was adopted in the Storting’s decision of 1959. This is a policy that has served Norway well, and it is a good policy. However, in extraordinary situations like the one we find ourselves in now, the Storting’s decision of 1959 allows for export on the basis of a careful assessment of foreign and security policy considerations. We have reached the conclusion that it is right for Norway to donate protective military equipment to Ukraine. We have reviewed the list that we have received from Ukraine and have today decided to provide military equipment such as helmets, bulletproof vests and other equipment needed by an adult male population to defend its country.  

We will maintain close contact with other countries and consider the need to make further contributions to help the Ukrainian people, who are now fighting for their lives and freedom in a battle against a superior military force.

All the parliamentary leaders in the Storting have been informed about this decision this afternoon, and a meeting of the Enlarged Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence will be held at 20:30 where further details will be provided.

The Minister of Defence will say more about the defence-related products now being donated to Ukraine. 

The EU has today also tightened its economic sanctions in a range of areas. We know that sanctions are most effective when many countries introduce the same restrictions. It is natural for Norway to implement sanctions together with European countries and in line with decisions taken by the EU.

We are in close contact with the EU and our neighbouring countries, and preparations for implementing the wide-ranging package of sanctions are well under way. 

Today I have spoken to the President of Finland, the Swedish Prime Minister and the German Chancellor to touch base and communicate Norway’s views. The Minister of Foreign Affairs will give more details about the sanctions package, but I would like to comment on some of the specific measures adopted.

The most important of the new restrictive measures adopted by the EU involves removing selected Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system. Norway supports this, and has indicated its support in its dialogue with the EU.  

As another step, countries in Europe and the EU have decided to close their airspace to Russian aircraft. We have consulted our neighbouring countries, and have made it clear that Norway will close its airspace as well.  

Norway will also align itself with the additional sanctions against Belarus, which is involved in the war against Ukraine.

I know that many people are worried about the situation that is unfolding, the images we are seeing of a country being attacked in this way. The Government is doing everything it can to monitor developments in cooperation with our allies and partners. Our NATO membership gives us a firm, secure foundation. It offers us the guarantee of collective defence which we are doing our utmost to preserve, and we will continue to do so in the future. And let me assure you all, and especially all the children out there, that we are working hard to achieve peaceful solutions and a world where we can all live together safely and in peace.

That being said, it is important to send a clear signal and implement measures that will have a direct impact on the Russian leadership – those who have taken the decision to pursue this war of aggression – as well as on Russian companies and economic interests.

The action we are taking will have consequences for Russian society, and will make it clear that we will not accept this attack in a free and democratic Europe.

It is also important to emphasise that these sanctions will have ramifications for other countries as well, including for Norway. They will limit trade and they will restrict exchange, but given the current situation we have no choice.