President of Ukraine

Speech by Volodymyr Zelenskyy to representatives of the public, political and expert circles of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and international institutions based in The Hague 

4 May 2023 - 16:53

Speech by Volodymyr Zelenskyy to representatives of the public, political and expert circles of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and international institutions based in The Hague 

First of all, I would like to thank you for your attention and respect for Ukraine that I have felt today. This is attention and respect from people who value freedom and do not tolerate tyranny as much as we do not in Ukraine! Thank you!

Dear Minister Hoekstra! Dear members of Parliament! 

Dear ambassadors and journalists! 

Dear representatives of international organisations, political and judicial communities!

Dear people of the Netherlands!

I’m glad to be in your strong country now – the land of freedom and justice, which are universal values, and it is about these things that I will speak today.

Of course, we all want to see a different Vladimir here, in The Hague. The one who deserves to be sentenced for his criminal actions right here, in the capital of international law.

I’m sure we will see that happen, when we win. And we will win. And when we win not just on the battlefield, not just against this aggression.

Look at how countries around the world are coming together to help Ukrainians defend themselves. What is at the heart of this desire to help? The feeling that more than the fate of one country is at stake. The feeling that more can be achieved than the defeat of one aggressor. 

We can now stop wars of aggression as such. We can defeat aggression as a criminal idea that originates in the mindset of someone who is used to impunity.

Impunity is the key that opens the door to aggression. If you look at any war of aggression in history, they all have one thing in common – the perpetrators of the war did not believe they would have to stand to answer for what they did. 

They must stand to answer for war! Whoever brings war, must receive judgment.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Defeating impunity of aggressors means destroying the origins of aggression.

Victory in the war is won by force of arms – that's how the job gets done. And I am grateful to you and the Netherlands for every piece of weapon supplied to Ukraine – for everything that helps us to maintain our defence and gradually prepare our active actions.

But we know that the lasting peace after victory is achieved by nothing else but the strength of values. First of all, it’s the strength of freedom and of law, which must work to the full to ensure justice. Not hybrid promises instead of human rights, but real freedom. Not hybrid impunity and symbolic formalities, but full-scale justice. Not hybrid peace and constant flashes of violence on the frontline, but reliable peace. When one respects values - true freedom, true justice, true peace is respected instead of hybrid forms, but it’s exactly what we need now.

Please think about one number. This number is – six thousand one hundred and thirty-nine. This is the number of war crimes committed by the Russian occupiers this April alone. 

These Russian crimes led to the death of two hundred and seven Ukrainian civilians. Among them are eleven children. Another seventeen children and four hundred adults were injured. In a month alone… 

And the full-scale Russian invasion has been going on for the fifteenth month. Just yesterday, in our Kherson region alone, Russia killed twenty-three people, forty-nine were wounded. I’m speaking about civilians.

And it all started more than nine years ago with the occupation of Crimea and Russia's bloody hybrid war in the Donbas. Thousands and thousands of war crimes, thousands and thousands of victims.

The Russian rocket that killed twenty-three people in the city of Uman, and each of the millions of strikes fired by Russian artillery in the Donbas… Every person killed by the occupiers in Bucha and every filtration camp that Russia set up on our independent land... Every prisoner who was tortured in Russian captivity, and every city deliberately burned by Russia... And all the pain suffered by the Dutch people, after the downing of MH-17 flight with the use of the Russian weapons, by Russian hands… Exactly by Russian hands.

Please observe a minute of silence in memory of all those whose lives were taken by Russia, by its terror.

Thank you very much.

Ladies and Gentleen! Friends!

Only one Russian crime led to all of these crimes. This is a crime of aggression. The start of evil, the primary crime. There should be responsibility for this crime! And it can only be enforced by the Tribunal.

Europe and the world have already had to deal with something like this. As a result, we can see the following words in the text of the judgment of the International Tribunal in Nuremberg: “To initiate a war of aggression, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that, it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”. That’s absolutely true.

We must transform the experience of the Nuremberg process into an operating rule! That’s why we insist on the Tribunal creation. 

When there is a tradition of inevitable punishment for aggression, then there will be a tradition of guaranteed non-repetition of aggression. If we want true justice, we should not look for excuses and should not refer to the shortcomings of current international law, but make bold decisions that will correct the shortcomings of those norms that, unfortunately, exist in international law. This is exactly what the creators of Nuremberg did. We should do the same now. 

It would be a weakness for you and for us and for all of the nations to leave full justice only to history. It would be unfair to our children and grandchildren to hand them problems that we can solve. That's what the Tribunal is for. The sustainability of peace arises from the complete justice towards the aggressor.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

It is wrong that someone in the world is still afraid to give full force to justice. You and I are not afraid! I am sure most of the world is not afraid. The aggressor must fear the full power of justice. Only him!

Yet this is our historical responsibility – of the modern generations – to make the total punishment for aggression inevitable; to prevent the aggression against our country and also new wars. There are potential aggressors in the world. And the world must seek justice to see peace fully secured.

Ukrainian courts will ensure responsibility for most of the crimes of the Russian occupiers. 

I am thankful to the International Criminal Court and to the entire team working at and with the ICC for the sake of justice.

But only one institution is capable of responding to the original crime – the crime of aggression. A Tribunal! Not something hybrid that can formally close the topic... Not some compromise that will allow politicians to say that the case is allegedly done... But a true, full-fledged Tribunal. True and full justice.

And I am thankful to you, the people and leaders of the Netherlands, the Prime Minister, the Government, the Parliament for being with us on this path. It is so important for us. I thank you for supporting the establishment of the Special Tribunal. I am grateful that the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression will work right here in The Hague. Same here, in The Hague, the Register of damages from aggression will be established. And this is a step forward to creating a Compensation Mechanism: damages from aggression must be compensated at the expense of the assets of the aggressor himself. And this is also a punishment for war – as well as justice.

I thank you for the fact that for you and us, justice really matters! 

Thank you, the Netherlands! Let justice really work!

And when today, as always on the fourth of May, at eight o'clock in the evening, you will honor the memory of all those whose lives were taken away by wars – World War II and others – please also remember Ukrainians – men and women, adults and children, who would have been alive now but for this aggression. The war we didn't want, the one we have to make the last. We’ll do it!

Слава Україні!