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It really is a great pleasure to welcome you to NATO Headquarters.
Ukraine is a valued and long-standing partner for NATO.
In these difficult moments, NATO stands by Ukraine. NATO stands by the right of every nation to decide its own future. NATO stands by Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and by the fundamental principles of international law.
And this is not just about Ukraine. This crisis has serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area as a whole. We clearly face the gravest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War.
And your sovereignty, your independence, and your territorial integrity are key factors for stability and security in the region.
Our NATO-Ukraine Commission already enjoys an extensive framework for cooperation and assistance. Within this framework, we have decided to intensify our partnership, and strengthen our cooperation to support democratic reforms.
We will step up our engagement with Ukraine’s political and military leadership, as we are doing just now.
We will strengthen our efforts to build the capacity of the Ukrainian military, including with more joint training and exercises.
And we will do more to include Ukraine in our cutting-edge multinational projects to develop capabilities.
The people of Ukraine have shown great determination and great courage. Your armed forces have shown great restraint, in the face of tremendous pressure.
I fully commend that restraint. Because cool heads are key to de-escalation.
We stress the importance of an inclusive political process, based on democratic values, respect for human rights, minorities and the rule of law, which fulfils the democratic aspirations of the entire Ukrainian people.
Above all, we call on Russia to honour its international commitments and halt the military escalation in Crimea. We call on Russia to withdraw its forces to their bases, and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine. There should be no attempt to draw new lines on the map of Europe in the 21stcentury.
Let me stress that we see a political solution as the only way forward. And we support international efforts to find that way forward through the dispatch of international observers and a peaceful dialogue.
1. Mr. Putin says: Russian forces in Crimea are only acting to protect Russian military assets. It is “citizens’ defense groups,” not Russian forces, who have seized infrastructure and military facilities in Crimea.
The Facts: Strong evidence suggests that members of Russian security services are at the heart of the highly organized anti-Ukraine forces in Crimea. While these units wear uniforms without insignia, they drive vehicles with Russian military license plates and freely identify themselves as Russian security forces when asked by the international media and the Ukrainian military. Moreover, these individuals are armed with weapons not generally available to civilians.3. Mr. Putin says: The opposition failed to implement the February 21 agreement with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
The Facts: The February 21 agreement laid out a plan in which the Rada, or Parliament, would pass a bill to return Ukraine to its 2004 Constitution, thus returning the country to a constitutional system centered around its parliament. Under the terms of the agreement, Yanukovych was to sign the enacting legislation within 24 hours and bring the crisis to a peaceful conclusion. Yanukovych refused to keep his end of the bargain. Instead, he packed up his home and fled, leaving behind evidence of wide-scale corruption.
4. Mr. Putin says: Ukraine’s government is illegitimate. Yanukovych is still the legitimate leader of Ukraine.
The Facts: On March 4, President Putin himself acknowledged the reality that Yanukovych “has no political future.” After Yanukovych fled Ukraine, even his own Party of Regions turned against him, voting to confirm his withdrawal from office and to support the new government. Ukraine’s new government was approved by the democratically elected Ukrainian Parliament, with 371 votes – more than an 82% majority. The interim government of Ukraine is a government of the people, which will shepherd the country toward democratic elections on May 25th – elections that will allow all Ukrainians to have a voice in the future of their country.