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[Op-ed] Holding firm in support of Ukraine

By Korea Herald

Published : Feb. 6, 2024 - 16:32

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EU Ambassador Maria Castillo Fernandez EU Ambassador Maria Castillo Fernandez

This month we mark a grim anniversary; two years since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This period has seen Russia breach international law, commit war crimes and engage in unlawful military cooperation with the DPRK. The Ambassadors of the European Union reiterate their condemnation of these actions, and their appreciation for the solid support of the Republic of Korea for Ukraine. We are confident that the ROK’s support will remain firm, including in full implementation of sanctions against Russia. Global security and the survival of the international rules-based order, depends on it.

Feb. 24, 2024, marks the second anniversary of Russia’s brutal war of aggression on Ukraine. This is an appropriate juncture to put the record straight amid recent media interventions by Russia’s ambassador-designate to the Republic of Korea.

Russia’s illegal, unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine constitutes a blatant and shocking violation of international law and in particular, the UN Charter. This war is being waged by a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which falsely portrays itself as a responsible member of the international community. We, members of the European Union, have been consistent in our condemnation of Russia’s actions, and will continue to do so, in the strongest possible terms. Two years on, our resolve remains unwavering.

The Republic of Korea is a strong ally and friend in defending the international rules-based order. In May last year, at the EU-ROK Summit, President Yoon Suk Yeol joined the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the president of the European Commission, Ursula Van der Leyen, to resolutely condemn Russia's war of aggression. The leaders recalled their unwavering support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. Asserting Ukraine’s inherent right of self-defense against Russia, they jointly demanded an immediate cessation of Russia’s aggression and unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine. Today, this statement from the leaders of the European Union and the Republic of Korea remains relevant and entirely valid. All UN member states must uphold the UN Charter principles, the cornerstone of the international order. Russia is no exception.

Let us not forget that the international community adopted no fewer than seven UN General Assembly resolutions condemning Russia and supporting Ukraine. It is indicative of Russia’s weak international standing that it is reliant on the endorsement of its actions by the DPRK (North Korea).

The DPRK is also transferring ballistic missiles, along with other arms and ammunition to Russia. This constitutes a flagrant violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions, namely Resolution 1718 (2006), Resolution 1874 (2009) and Resolution 2270 (2016). Russia supported these Resolutions. Nevertheless, Russia has recently used these missiles against Ukraine on Dec. 30 and Jan. 2, increasing the suffering of the Ukrainian people, and undermining the global non-proliferation regime. These weapons transfers also provide funds and valuable technical and military insights to the DPRK that could be used to support its unlawful nuclear and missile programs.

On Jan. 9, the Republic of Korea joined European countries and other partners in condemning in the strongest possible terms these actions by Russia and the DPRK, actions which they both continue to deny. We urge the DPRK to stop giving any support, political or otherwise, to Russia’s illegal war efforts and call on Russia and the DPRK to cease violations of UN Security Council resolutions and the UN Charter.

Today, Russia’s brutal war and perpetration of war crimes against ordinary Ukrainian men, women and children, continues unabated. We cannot allow Putin to prevail; we cannot give implicit permission to Russia and other autocracies to pursue their imperialist agendas. Our security is at stake -- in Europe, on the Korean Peninsula, and beyond. Ukraine prevailing against Russian aggression is the best security guarantee not only for Europe, but for the world. At all costs, we must defend the international rules-based order. Otherwise, powerful countries can change borders at will, and the weak fall prey to the strong.

Since the start of Russia’s war of aggression, the EU stands united in our unwavering support for Ukraine. Last week, the 27 EU leaders agreed a new 50 billion-euro ($54 billion) financial aid package for Ukraine. We will continue to provide strong political, financial, economic, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support to Ukraine and its people for as long as it takes.

The EU is very grateful for the Republic of Korea’s unprecedented support for Ukraine. Among other actions, sanctions and their implementation are a very important part of what we do for Ukraine. The Republic of Korea has put in place many welcome measures to align with the EU and the US export controls and financial sanctions against Russia. In December 2023, the Republic of Korea announced a significant expansion of its export controls against Russia and Belarus, from 741 to 1159 items. These restrictions are not symbolic. They prevent the transfer of many advanced technology items, helping to weaken Russia’s military capabilities.

As we approach the second anniversary of this war and in light of recent military cooperation between Russia and DPRK, Ukraine is counting on continued support from all its partners, including the Republic of Korea. A full alignment by the Republic of Korea with our sanctions against Russia, including on advanced technological products, would be very welcome.

No one wants peace more than Ukraine. That is why we are actively working with more than 80 countries, including the Republic of Korea, to achieve just peace. Europe and our allies must continue to defend the principles at stake in Ukraine, even though we are all experiencing the consequences of this war in our daily lives -- in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific.

This is a critical time, and the Indo-Pacific stands at a crossroads of global affairs. Last week, European and Indo-Pacific Foreign Ministers met in Brussels, and emphasized how our cooperation is more important than ever. We must continue to work together for a shared resilience in this troubled world. The Republic of Korea is key to this partnership, a valued friend and a strategic ally. We -- and the people of Ukraine -- need its support now and tomorrow, as much as we did on Feb. 24, 2022.

The following article was contributed by the ambassadors to the Republic of Korea of the European Union and EU member states. -- Ed.