Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took a moment during his speech at the World Forum in The Hague on Thursday to hold a moment of silence for all the victims of “Russia and its terror” including the 298 people killed with Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014. He used his speech to press a case against Russia’s “crime of aggression” by invading Ukraine, and asked Dutch people honoring the country’s Remembrance Day on Thursday to also take a moment to think about those killed in Ukraine. Earlier, he also spoke to representatives of Dutch parliament, where he said he was grateful for their support, including military aid, and the country’s leadership in pushing for an investigation into allegations of war crimes that have taken place in Ukraine.
The speeches were part of Zelenskyy’s surprise visit to the Netherlands, which remained officially unconfirmed even late on Wednesday night. Following brief introductory remarks by Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra, who reaffirmed the Netherlands’ commitment to supporting Ukraine with military, humanitarian, and reconstruction aid, President Zelenskyy delivered a 15-minute speech in English.
Zelenskyy started his speech by saying, “We all want to see a different a Vladimir here in the Hague, the one who deserves to be sentenced these criminal actions, right here, in the capital of the international law,” a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I am sure we will see that happen when we win. And we will win.” He continued by stating that, “Aggression wars have one thing in common; perpetrators did not believe they would have to stand for what they did. But war must receive judgment.”
The Ukrainian leader underscored the crucial role of international tribunals and justice, asserting, “Victory is won by the force of arms. However, lasting peace can only be achieved through the strength of values.” He added, “Freedom, law, justice.”
He then asked for a moment of silence to honor all victims of Russia’s campaign in Ukraine, including those who perished in the downing of MH17 on July 17, 2014. Zelenskyy then drew parallels to the Nuremberg Trials, which were held against Nazi Germany following the World War II.
“[The Russan invasion] is a crime of aggression, the start of evil, the primary of evil, there should responsibilities for this crime. Only can be enforced by tribunals,” he stated.
He emphasized that to achieve true justice, it is essential not to seek excuses or rely on the limitations of existing international law. Instead, he urged for bold decisions to address and correct these shortcomings. “This is exactly what the creators of Nuremberg did. We should do the same now.”
In the conclusion of his speech, Zelenskyy invoked Remembrance Day, which is commemorated every year in the Netherlands to memorialize those who have died during wars and peacekeeping missions since the start of World War II. “Today, as always on the fourth of May, at 8 o’clock in the evening, you will honor the memory of those whose lives were taking away by the wars, the Second World War, and all other wars. 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.”
Zelenskyy concluded his speech by saying “Slava Ukraini,” or “Glory to Ukraine,” and was given a standing ovation by the gathered audience.
After departing the stage, Zelenskyy was whisked over to Catshuis in The Hague, the official residence of the Dutch prime minister. Zelenskyy arrived there just after noon where he was greeted by Rutte on a red carpet. While it was already known that the Ukrainian president would speak with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, it was reported on Thursday that Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo would also be meeting with Zelenskyy during his visit to the Netherlands.
Zelenskyy speech to Dutch parliament
Earlier, on Thursday, Zelenskyy made a 45 minute stop at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he waved to supporters, and prior to that, he gave an 11-minute address in the Eerste Kamer, the upper house of Parliament. The address was attended by many leaders of political factions in both the Eerste Kamer and the lower house, the Tweede Kamer, as well as the chairs of both houses and committee leaders. “Today is a special day for your country and for Europe,” Zelenskyy said referencing the country’s Remembrance Day on May 4. “I am honored that you host us today,” he said.
His address was more than a year after he addressed a joint session of parliament by video feed, and he reflected back on what has happened since that time, praising the Netherlands for its support during that time, and its backing of the International Criminal Court’s investigation into war crimes. “No aggressor will now think that he can burn the values of our Europe in a fire of aggression,” he said after remarking on Europe’s unified approach. “It seemed to Russia that Europe was weak. Well, now Russia is trying to figure out how to hide its own weakness. And I am grateful to you that The Hague, a city for international law in the world, is becoming a real hub of international justice.”
Zelenskyy told Dutch parliamentary leaders that Russia’s retreat back to its original borders is crucial to European security, and to the security of the NATO Alliance. He said he was grateful for the military support from the Netherlands, referring to the provision of Patriot missile systems and Panzer armored howitzers, while saying that the country is open to the possibility of providing F-16 aircraft and training. “Your leadership truly provides results,” he said. Zelenskyy said that if he is invited back for another visit, “I will be able to also thank you the way I am doing today. And I believe Ukrainians and all of Europeans will be able to thank you for bringing the peace closer, and saving lives.”
Zelenskyy arrived at Schiphol Airport on Wednesday night amidst intensifying rumors of his visit. The president’s agenda began with the visit to the Eerste Kamer on Thursday morning.
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