Speech/statement | Date: 15/03/2022 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By State Secretary Eivind Vad Petersson (Oslo, 15 March)
State Secretary Eivind Vad Petersson's statement at a meeting with diplomats in Oslo 15 March.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine has shocked the world. This is an unprovoked and illegal attack on a peaceful neighbour. It is a clear violation of international law.
The European continent has not seen a war of this type and scale since World War II. The suffering of civilians is difficult to fathom, and the level of destruction is enormous. I fear the worst is still to come.
We condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine in the strongest possible terms. Russia’s aggressive actions are a clear violation of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We also condemn Belarus’s role in this war of aggression.
The Russian regime has grossly underestimated the ability and willingness of the Ukrainian people to defend their country and their freedom. I think we all are deeply impressed by the resilience of the Ukrainian people, and by the country’s military and political leadership in the face of a materially superior enemy.
Faced with effective Ukrainian resistance, Russian forces have become more brutal. They are increasing their use of heavy artillery in big cities. The Russian shelling of hospitals, private homes and critical infrastructure is an outrage. The number of civilian casualties is rising by the hour. We strongly denounce Russia’s gruesome actions against civilians.
The consequences of Russia’s war are dramatic in many ways. First and foremost, for Ukraine and its population of 40 million who are under attack. And this war is also bringing change to the European security landscape.
But this is so much more than a regional European issue. Russia’s actions constitute a serious violation of international peace and security. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have global and long-term impacts. It challenges the rules-based international order.
We must defend our world order, where relationships between states are shaped not by the balance of power, but by legal principles. The sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of countries are widely recognised principles, enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine was a flagrant breach of the most fundamental rules of international relations and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of UN member states. It shows complete disrespect for the UN Charter and international law, and poses a threat to the international order that was established in 1945.
Russia has actively sought and willingly accepted the privilege of being a permanent member of the Security Council. This comes with a responsibility to contribute to international peace and security in accordance with the UN Charter and to the benefit of all member states.
As a permanent member, Russia was provided with veto power. A power it has now abused to block the Security Council from fulfilling its mandate to maintain international peace and security.
Russia’s actions and this veto by an aggressor are a disgrace to the Security Council.
To protect the rules of international relations and respect for the UN, Norway and the other members referred the Ukraine situation to the General Assembly. This is the first time in four decades that the Council has taken such a step. In the true spirit of the Uniting for Peace resolution, an overwhelming majority of member states voted to condemn Russia’s actions and demand Russian withdrawal.
The actions of Russia, with the assistance of Belarus, will have lasting repercussions for the standing of these countries in international and multilateral cooperation.
Before the assault on Ukraine, Russia was offered the chance to engage in talks in good faith to improve European security. Despite ceaseless efforts to seek a diplomatic solution, Russia chose the path of aggression.
Throughout, we all heard Moscow’s repeated assurances that Russia had no intention of attacking Ukraine. This proved to be a lie.
Against this backdrop we must reconsider policies that have been well-entrenched for decades. Norway has sent weapons to a country at war for the first time since the 1950s. Many other countries are providing military equipment to Ukraine as well.
In the time leading up to the Russian invasion, and especially after the attacks started, we have seen remarkable unity in Europe and the whole world. The EU, NATO and various countries around the globe have joined ranks in their reaction against Russia. Over the space of a few weeks, we have implemented measures that would have been unthinkable only a short while ago.
Putin not only underestimated Ukraine. He underestimated our resolve and unity.
We are at a crucial point in history. We must ensure that there is the broadest possible unity and strong cohesion among countries in handling this crisis. Reactions against Russia have rightly been strong. Russia’s assault on Ukraine is a clear violation of international law. As such, it is a challenge to all states, in all parts of the world.
The imposed sanctions are a legally permissible response and an essential part of the international community’s toolbox. The EU, the United States and other countries have adopted a historically comprehensive sanctions package.
We acknowledge that these sanctions seriously affect business and private actors that have nothing to do with the Russian regime or its cruel war. They also have negative consequences for Norwegian businesses and communities. As a neighbour to Russia, Norway has long sought to develop trade, business and people-to-people ties across the border. Much of this will now be cut off or frozen.
Nevertheless, these are necessary measures. We need to send a powerful message to Russia that this war is unacceptable. Sanctions are most effective when many countries act in concert. Norway has aligned itself with all EU sanctions imposed on Russia. It has also aligned itself with all sanctions targeting Belarus for its facilitation of the war. The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund has frozen and is gradually divesting its Russian assets.
Norway has reduced its contact with the Russian authorities to a minimum. So have other European countries and allies. We would like to maintain people-to-people cross-border cooperation in the north. But this has become impossible due to Russia’s ever-expanding authoritarianism. We are concerned about the regime’s increasing repression of its citizens, many of whom are trying to protest against Putin’s war.
Russia is waging a vicious war and the civilian population of Ukraine is paying the price. This is the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since WWII. In just three weeks, more than 2.8 million Ukrainians have left the country, mostly fleeing to neighbouring states. Last week, Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt visited Poland, where 1.7 million Ukrainians have fled. She heard heart-wrenching stories from victims of the war.
We commend the way the neighbouring countries have handled this crisis. I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the representatives of the countries sharing a border with Ukraine – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova. There has been an impressive willingness and effort to help Ukrainians in dire need, from both the authorities and the citizens. The warm welcome and protection you are offering refugees is a symbol of European solidarity. I would also like to thank you for all the assistance your authorities have provided and continue to provide to Norwegian citizens leaving Ukraine.
Norway is ready to welcome refugees from Ukraine. We will work to promote equitable distribution of these refugees throughout Europe. The Government has decided to offer temporary collective protection for people fleeing from Ukraine, which is in line with the EU’s decision to activate the Temporary Protection Directive. Displaced Ukrainians must be welcomed in societies willing to take care of fellow human beings in a desperate situation.
We need to alleviate the humanitarian suffering caused by Russia’s aggression. We value the close dialogue with many of you on humanitarian issues. We need to ensure that all humanitarian efforts are well coordinated and complementary. Together with the EU and other countries we are providing large-scale humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian population.
Norway has allocated 2 billion Norwegian kroner to support the humanitarian and refugee response in Ukraine and adjacent countries. This allocation comes in addition to the core funding to the UNHCR, OCHA and other UN organisations.
The situation in Ukraine is very serious and is deteriorating every day. But it is not the only crisis around the world today. It comes on top of other ongoing humanitarian and refugee crises. The Norwegian Government has therefore decided that the majority of the humanitarian support to Ukraine and the adjacent countries will be allocated as an addition to the original funding for humanitarian efforts set out in the budget for 2022. The Government’s proposal to the Storting for the revised national budget will reflect this.
The Government considers it to be of paramount importance for Norway to fulfil its obligations to the people living in other crisis situations: in Yemen, in South Sudan, in Syria, in Ethiopia, among others.
Norwegian support is, and will continue to be, channelled mainly through the UN, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and through Norwegian humanitarian organisations and their local partners.
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is an important channel for “in-kind” humanitarian assistance. Norway participates in the UCPM on an equal footing with EU member states. So far, Norway has provided health and surgical equipment and medicines to Ukraine as requested through the UCPM mechanism. We are continuously reviewing the requests coming through the UCPM mechanism to identify areas where Norway can contribute based on its capacity in various fields where help is needed.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has put us all to the test. This may be the most challenging ordeal in Europe since World War II. There is little indication that Russia will choose a political path to end the war.
The cohesion and action of Europe and other countries around the world in responding to Russia’s aggression shows that we are able to come together in the face of a crisis. Coordination and unity across continents are crucial. Now more than ever. Norway is consulting closely with its allies and partners in this situation. Together we have raised Russia’s actions in the UN Security Council. Moscow must and will be held accountable. Russia must withdraw its troops.
The Ukrainian people are now heroically defending their country, their lives and their freedom. They are fighting for their freedom and dignity. They are fighting for Ukraine’s right to independence and self-determination. And they are fighting for you, because the fight to defend Ukraine is also a fight to defend the rules-based international order.
Ukraine and its people have Norway’s unwavering support.
We stand with Ukraine.