Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, one year on
One year ago, on February 24th 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This unprovoked, illegitimate and unjustified aggression was and remains a blatant violation of the UN Charter. Since that day, Russia’s claims and assumptions have been proved wrong.
By waging its war, Russia is blatantly violating international law and the international order in ways that are harmful for all countries across the world. It is a war that concerns everyone. The principles at stake and the consequences it has triggered affect directly also Asia.
Russia claimed to have been attacked by “the West” and that its actions were supported by the rest of the world. One year on, Russia is internationally isolated as clearly demonstrated in most of the votes at the UN General Assembly: 143 countries condemned its attempted illegal annexations and only five supported them. Cambodia is one of the countries that have consistently shown their support to the very principles of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, enshrined in the UN Charter.
Russia claims that international sanctions imposed on the country by “the West” are jeopardising global food security, especially for developing countries. One year on, the reality is that Western sanctions explicitly exclude food supplies and fertilisers.
None of the sanctions adopted by the EU in view of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine target the trade in agricultural and food products, including wheat and fertiliser, between third countries and Russia. It is in fact Russia’s aggression that is hindering the exports of grain and other products from Ukraine and causing the price increases and food crisis.
Western countries have taken action and are implementing initiatives to fight the devastating consequences of Russian aggression in the most vulnerable countries, particularly the impact of the food and energy crises. The Ukrainians, supported by the Europeans, are ensuring that grain exports continue. Russia weaponised hunger and food, not only against Ukrainians, but against the most vulnerable communities around the world, including in Asia.
Russia made the mistake of thinking that the Europeans were weak and would be easily divided. They have been proven wrong. One year on, under the French, the Czech and now the Swedish presidencies, the EU and its member states remain strongly united in their support for Ukraine for as long as it takes, and both Ukraine and Moldova have been granted candidate status.
Furthermore: for the first time in its history, the EU Council approved the financing and delivery of military equipment to Ukraine through the European Peace Facility (EPF) and made full geopolitical use of its market power by imposing unprecedented and hard-hitting sanctions against Russia.
Europe is also reducing its dependency on Russian’s oil and gas. Since the beginning of the war, the EU and its member states have made available around €50 billion ($53 billion) in economic, humanitarian and military support to Ukraine.
And let it be clear, EU’s support to Ukraine does not diminish in any way our continued support to the most vulnerable countries in the world, beneficiary of the EU’s development aid. The EU remains collectively the biggest donor for international aid worldwide, helping to overcome poverty and advance global development.
Russia thought that division would soon emerge between the Europeans and other partners. One year on, the coordination between Europe, the US and their partners is closer than ever, in all areas. Unprecedented economic sanctions have been adopted in close coordination and have already imposed a heavy toll on the Russian economy and on the Kremlin, with the objective to make it more difficult to continue to finance the illegal bloodshed, destruction and looting by Russia in Ukraine. We are determined to provide long-term support to Ukraine and countries affected by the Russian war of aggression.
Russia claimed to be reacting to NATO threats. One year on, the attack on Ukraine has strengthened the North Atlantic Alliance. Sweden and Finland strive to join NATO, a historical choice that these two democracies have made of their own will. NATO has no expansionist intentions, but two European states decided to join the defence alliance because of the Russian aggression.
Russia massively and deliberately attacked Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, aiming at aggravating the humanitarian crisis and putting pressure on the Ukrainian population. This is a crime for which there can be no impunity. Millions of refugees from Ukraine have been forced to leave their homes and found shelter in neighbouring countries: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and other countries across the EU.
One year on, the breadth of support to Ukraine is growing. The International conference in support of the Ukrainian people, organised on December 13, 2022 in Paris, gathered 47 countries and 24 international organisations from all over the world to send a clear message of the collective commitment to support the Ukrainian people. Participants pledged to provide €1 billion of aid to support Ukraine this winter.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen participated in the conference, and was the only non-European head of government to do so. After the conference, he joined France in calling for the immediate halting of air strikes on the population of Ukraine and the civil infrastructure. The training of Ukraine deminers offered by Cambodia is also clear support to the humanitarian demands of the situation and appreciated very much by people of Ukraine and the EU.
Russia bet on a rapid collapse of the Ukrainian army and authorities. One year on, the Ukrainian nation is more united than ever and support for President Zelensky is colossal.
Russia thought that its military capabilities would be enough to crush the Ukrainian army and discourage the Ukrainians. One year on, the offensive on Kiev has been repelled; the Kharkiv region and the city of Kherson have been liberated. Russian forces use a deluge of fire and sacrifice a large number of soldiers. Russia mobilised 300,000 additional troops and even sends criminals and mercenaries as those of the Wagner Group, to make up for losses of combat units.
Russia presented the invasion as a “special operation” to protect the Russian-speaking population. One year on, its army repeatedly violates international law and continues to commit war crimes against the very people it claims to defend. The international community needs to do everything possible to hold Russia accountable for its acts and to fight impunity.
What is really at stake in Russia’s war against Ukraine is the respect of the UN Charter principles, territorial integrity and national sovereignty. We are not at war with Russia. However, today, tomorrow, or as long as it takes, we stand with the people of Ukraine. Ukraine is fighting for its freedom.
Carmen Moreno et al
Ambassadors of the EU, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Finland to Cambodia, and Charge d’ Affaires ad interim at the Greece embassy.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors.