President of Ukraine

The world needs a real embodiment of the rule of law to protect humanity from the source of all aggressions – the address of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the United for Justice conference in Lviv

3 March 2023 - 20:40

The world needs a real embodiment of the rule of law to protect humanity from the source of all aggressions – the address of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the United for Justice conference in Lviv

Every shot that takes an innocent life must result in a legal and fair sentence that punishes murder.

Every violence that destroys a person's life must result in a legal and fair judicial decision that protects human dignity.

These are constants for civilized and democratic countries. For the countries in which the rule of law is consistently ensured.

But it is time to make it constant for international relations as well.

The constants that will act universally and most importantly – irrevocably in relation to any violator of international law.

Especially when it comes to the crime of aggression.

The world needs a real embodiment of the rule of law, which is guaranteed to protect humanity from the "right of force" – from the source of all aggressions.


Dear attendees!

Dear Mr. President, and First Lady!

Our dear guests!

Numerous words of conventions and other international treaties for the protection of people and humanity should become concrete legal decisions and actions.

The noble intention of the creators of international law should be reflected in the energy of international justice.

In response to all the crimes and injustices caused by Russian aggression against the state of Ukraine and against the civilized system of the world, all the necessary steps must be taken by us and you. Steps for the sake of one result.

The result that will unite the civilized world. It will testify to the reality of the rule of international law. Namely:

The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, and all his accomplices must receive legal and fair sentences. For everything they did. In the name and memory of all whose lives they took, and whose destinies they destroyed.

For the aggression they unleashed.


The world must strongly respond to Russian aggression and terror with all the strength of the common heritage of our nations. Law is one of the core elements of the firmness of human culture.

Any revenge cannot do what justice can do. The law is able to ensure not only the prosecution of the perpetrators of specific crimes. Including the perpetrators of the most serious crime, the crime that gives rise to all other crimes of war and genocide, the crime of aggression.

The law can eliminate even the hypothetical possibility of feeling impunity for those who are capable of starting terrorist wars.

The real rule of law at the global level, and therefore effective international justice, would protect the world from such wars and their terrible consequences.


What did this year, which you and I just saw on the screens – the year of the terrorist war – bring to Ukraine? Only one year...

Over 70,000 Russian war crimes have already been recorded. But, unfortunately, we do not know about all crimes at the moment.

A large part of our territory still remains occupied, and we cannot currently reliably predict how many Russian crimes we would discover after the occupiers are expelled.

However, it is clear how serious these crimes are. What the scale of the criminal manifestations of Russia's aggression is.

We remember everything. We remember Bucha – and what the Russian soldiers did there.

We remember the village of Yahidne in Chernihiv region, in fact, the concentration camp into which the occupiers turned the basement of the village school. For weeks, more than three hundred people – from the elderly to children – were kept there. In the confined space, in the dark, in the suffocation.

We remember the numerous abuses and rapes of adults and children, which forever changed the world's view of what Russia is and what it is. We remember that, fleeing from Ukrainian land, the occupiers leave behind torture chambers and graves.

We remember thousands of terrorist attacks by missiles, thousands of terrorist attacks by drones – attacks against our people. We remember dozens of cities and villages in Ukraine burned by Russia.

Therefore, we can predict what else we would face when we return to the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

Mariupol and Volnovakha, Olenivka, and dozens of other places where Russia brought death and suffering have yet to reveal the full truth to the world about the atrocities of the occupiers in Ukraine.

And you and I have to prepare a complete toolkit – both at the national and international levels – so that justice will work in relation to all aspects of Russian aggression. And in relation to all the perpetrators of this aggression.

We now have data on thousands of civilian victims of the Russian attack. Thousands... But it is obvious that the occupier took the lives of a much larger number of our people. Absolutely all of us understand that. We all seek to punish the terrorist state.

It is the moral and legal duty of the world to the victims of Russian terror. And It is the security duty of the civilized and democratic world to any nation that may be threatened by the same aggression as Russia.

Dear attendees!

I ask you now to observe a moment of silence in memory of all Ukrainian men and women who were killed by Russian aggression, the memory of each of our soldiers who gave their lives to stop evil.



Today, the President of Latvia and the very experienced lawyer, Mr. Egils Levits is here in Lviv. The First Lady is here.

The Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of the Netherlands, a country that is one of the world leaders in the protection of justice and international law, is here. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, who vigorously and professionally defends Europe and the international order.

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mr. Karim Khan, is here, the European Commissioner for Justice, the President of Eurojust. Attorneys general and ministers of justice, special representatives of partner states – Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States.

The legal community of Ukraine and many countries of the world is represented here.

Thanks to this Lviv conference, thanks to you, we can develop a new format of international cooperation for the sake of justice.

It was in Lviv that at one time great figures studied and worked, Raphael Lemkin studied and worked – the author of the concept of genocide as a crime, thanks to which international norms for the prevention of genocide and punishment for it were determined.

The name of Hersch Lauterpacht, one of the most famous architects of the modern system of international law, is associated with Lviv.

Louis Sohn studied and worked in Lviv – another outstanding personality whose work we see today in the existence of UN institutions and international justice.

Today's meeting here in Lviv has a solid historical foundation, a solid scientific and legal basis.

We have to do it – and we will do it! – another Lviv's contribution to international law. Another Ukrainian contribution to international justice. Right here and right now, we are bringing the process to a completely new level, a complex process, in the final of which there will be verdicts. Sentences to those who are guilty of Russian aggression.

The first thing we must achieve: our union for justice must become a powerful impetus for the adoption of the draft Ukrainian resolution by the UN General Assembly – the resolution that would contribute to the creation of a Special Tribunal on the crime of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

The tribunal will become the link that will solve the problem of the impossibility of the International Criminal Court to prosecute precisely for the crime of aggression.

An office is opening in Ukraine, the Prosecutor General said about it. I consider this a great event for justice – the office of the International Criminal Court is opening. And we will further strengthen our relationship with the ICC, which will help bring to justice citizens of the terrorist state guilty of crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC.

We should pay special attention to the crimes committed and being committed by Russia against our Ukrainian children.

It is about the deportation of children, the abduction, and attempts to erase the national and family identity of our children.

The national judiciary and all its institutions must also work at full capacity.

We understand that the majority of Russian crimes on Ukrainian land and against Ukrainian citizens would receive a fair response precisely within the framework of our national jurisdiction.

And I thank everyone who is already helping to implement each of these three large-scale tasks.

Now, in Lviv, we have to define the correct priorities in this work.

Doctrinally and terminologically, politically and practically – we have to give answers to the question of how to go flawlessly through the entire process of bringing the Russian occupiers to justice – from gathering evidence and identifying each culprit to making guilty verdicts, from making the necessary decisions to actually securing justice for Ukraine, for our people, for all victims of Russian aggression and for the whole world.

Let everything that we still lack be heard and supported today here in Lviv, so that one day we can say absolutely abundantly: the murderers have been punished, the dignity and honor of the people have been protected, the damage has been compensated, and justice has won.

I wish all of us, all of you, fruitful work! Thank you for your attention!

And please remember – what exactly allows us to be united now, united for the most important thing – justice.

Every person matters. That is, every person is important, every life is important to us.

Glory to all these great people – to all those who protect Ukraine and the international order on the legal front! I also want to thank you for that.

Glory to all who are now fighting for Ukraine!

Glory to Ukraine!