Further measures to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine: Press statement by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell
As you have said, we are currently witnessing a full-fledged war directly on our borders. The war is again on the borders of Europe. President Putin is trampling the statehood and identity of a sovereign Ukraine and its people.
We see blatant violations of international law and with more and more civilian infrastructure being targeted, violating international humanitarian law. Putin is bombing, launching missile strikes and killing innocent people.
But the Ukrainian armed forces are fiercely fighting back and showing a heroic resistance to this invasion. It’s a people’s army fighting their invader.
Putin’s war is not only against Ukraine. We need to understand the gravity of the situation for Europeans and global security: this afternoon, Putin has announced that he is putting Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on “high alert”.
I just had a VTC with the G7 Foreign Ministers, and we were joined by Minister [of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro] Kuleba, who informed us of the latest developments on the ground and Ukraine’s urgent needs. I told him very clearly. You came last week and you asked for SWIFT and for arms. Now we are delivering on both. We are doing everything we can to support Ukraine, we stand by the Ukrainian people in practical terms.
In one hour, I am convening for the fourth time this week the EU Foreign Affairs Council for an extraordinary meeting via VTC.
Following up to the request by Foreign Affairs Minister of Ukraine, [Dmytro] Kuleba on Friday, I will today propose to use the European Peace Facility for two emergency assistance measures: to finance the supply of lethal material to the Ukrainian army, as well as urgently needed fuel, protective equipment and emergency medical supplies.
Another taboo has fallen. The taboo that the European Union was not providing arms in a war. Yes, we are doing it. Because this war requires our engagement to support the Ukrainian army.
We live unprecedented times, like we did when the pandemic arrived. We are facing the pest of the war, like in the Biblical times. This will be the first time in history that the EU will be providing lethal equipment to a third country.
I have also instructed my team in the EU Military Staff to set up a mechanism to coordinate the requests of the Ukrainian army, so that we respond in the most effective way with Member States to their needs that Minister Kuleba has explained to us today.
Today we will provide the political endorsement of the European Union 27 Member States on the overall package of measures outlined by President [of the European Commission, Ursula] von der Leyen and pave the way for the swift adoption of all necessary legal acts.
As just explained by Madame President, we will discuss with the Foreign Ministers the announcement of tough economic sanctions: SWIFT, the Central Bank and I will also put forward additional listings against Oligarchs. We will target the elite of Putin’s regime, who benefit financially from the system. We will also reinforce our measures against Belarus, who have been facilitating Russia’s assault against Ukraine.
With these measures, more than half of the Russian Central Bank reserves will be blocked.
Also, more and more Member States are announcing to close their airspace to Russian airlines and aircrafts. We will set out a common approach with the Ministers.
Finally, disinformation. Because Putin does not want only to conquer the land, he also wants to conquer the spirits of the people with toxic messages through lies. The Kremlin and its supporters are engaged in massive disinformation campaigns, in Ukraine, in our neighbourhood and in the EU. We have been fighting it since 2015 with the East StratCom Taskforce and the EU vs Disinformation platform – which I invite you to visit.
Today, we are taking a crucial step to turn off the tab for Russia’s information manipulation in Europe by banning Russia Today and Sputnik from broadcasting in the Union. We are killing the snake from its neck. We will also continue working actively in Ukraine and our neighbourhood to fight their attempts to distort reality and seed confusion and uncertainty.
Let me close, Madame President, by underlining that we will continue to coordinate with the Ukrainian government and neighbouring countries and to do everything we can to provide all the necessary support to the Ukrainian people and to put a stop to this senseless war.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-219388