Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Ukrainian Independence Day 2023 – UK Statement to the OSCE [August 2023]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 24 August 2023.

In marking the 32nd anniversary of the Ukrainian Declaration of Independence, Ambassador Holland honours the strength, fortitude, and identity of the Ukrainian people.

Thank you, Mr Chair and thank you for convening us today. As we mark the 32nd anniversary of the Ukrainian Declaration of Independence, in doing so we honour the strength, resilience and identity of the Ukrainian people. Ukrainian unity, and the unity of the international community in supporting Ukraine, has never been stronger.

Since we last met, Russia has continued to bombard civilians and civilian infrastructure. This includes, as my Ukrainian colleague has stated, the sickening attack on Chernihiv earlier this week, which killed seven and wounded over a hundred people. These victims were walking in the main square, going to the theatre, or returning from church. Once again, Russia has killed and wounded Ukrainian civilians who were simply going about their lives. These despicable attacks only strengthen our collective resolve and further damage Russia’s global standing.

Mr Chair, 18 months ago today, when President Putin launched his full-scale invasion, he believed he would overwhelm Ukraine within days. He completely miscalculated. The resilience of the Ukrainian people, the skill and determination of their Armed Forces, and the world’s commitment to Ukraine’s independence, mean that his illegal and unprovoked invasion is doomed to fail.

Ukraine is not just fighting for its own future, but for the defence of the principles underpinned by international law, namely the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of all states: principles we have agreed as members of the OSCE. We must never let countries attempt to redraw borders by force. Yesterday, guided by that collective belief, many of our countries gathered at the summit of the International Crimea Platform.

We now know that Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea was the direct precursor to Russia’s full scale illegal invasion in 2022. Crimea became a critical staging ground and springboard for Russia’s attacks on the rest of Ukraine, and has allowed Russia to disrupt and destabilise the region through its militarisation of the Black Sea. Crimea lies at the heart of many of the challenges we are facing, so it is only right that Crimea also be at the heart of ongoing discussions on how to counter Russia’s aggression and reach a just and sustainable peace in Ukraine.

Civilians in Crimea, particularly Crimean Tatars, have suffered terribly from Russian aggression, enduring a brutal and systematic campaign of human rights abuses and violations. And, just as we predicted at last year’s Crimea Platform Summit, Putin has followed his Crimea playbook of sham referendums, repression, and re-education in other areas of Ukraine.

The contrast is stark. Where Ukraine offers freedom, Putin’s regime imposes subjugation. Where Ukraine offers democracy, Russia inflicts tyranny. And while Ukraine works to protect human rights, Russia is systematically violating them. We will continue to use every lever we have – military, humanitarian, economic, diplomatic – to support the Ukrainian people in the face of this assault, and to ensure that Ukraine succeeds. As my Foreign Secretary said in his address to the Crimea Platform Summit, “the UK and the international community will never recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea or any Ukrainian territory, and will stand with you for as long as it takes”.

I would like to end by reiterating the UK’s support and admiration to the Ukrainian people on their Independence Day. In the shadow of the last terrible 18 months, never has your resilience, your strength and your identity been more apparent than it is today. We stand with you and will continue to stand with you, as you fight to protect your democracy, your rights, your values and your sovereignty.