Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s speech at Sergels torg
On Friday 24 February, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson gave a speech at Sergels torg during the demonstration ‘Sverige står upp för Ukraina’ (Sweden stands with Ukraine) to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
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Thank you very much.
In 2019, the newly elected President Zelenskyy said the following to the Ukrainian parliament in his inaugural address:
“We have chosen a path to Europe, but Europe is not somewhere out there. Europe is here (in the head — Ed.). And after it appears here, it will be everywhere, all over Ukraine.”
The Putin regime punished this decision by crippling Ukraine. We all remember what happened in Crimea and Donbas. But that happened before the full-scale invasion to eradicate Ukraine as an independent nation.
Today, the war has been going on for exactly one year. I think we all remember what we were doing that morning one year ago.
And if his meaning was unclear then, there is no doubt now what Zelenskyy meant when he spoke about the path to Europe. Europe is not an abstract concept to Ukraine – it’s as concrete as the grenades on the battlefields. Europe means that every nation – and every person – have the right to decide their destiny. Europe means understanding that democracy and freedom of expression are not luxury goods – they’re as vital as the air we breathe.
Putin and the world’s second largest army have tried to suppress Ukraine for a year, but they have failed. Russia must not win. That is why the joint message of democracies is so important: We stand with Ukraine!
At first, the situation seemed bleak. When Russian troops stood on the outskirts of Kyiv, some people in the West – and in Sweden – thought that Ukraine’s days of freedom were numbered. “Be realistic,” they said. But Ukraine has shown that our actions create reality.
There are those who did not even want to send weapons to help Ukraine. They considered it to be “illegal”, or at least inappropriate. Because those weapons could end up in the wrong hands. Because they couldn’t stand the thought of those weapons actually being used.
At this point, others said that investing in the defence industry wasn’t “sustainable”. I haven’t heard that particular argument since then. Ask Ukraine if their soldiers would have been able to sustainably resist Russia without our weapons.
In recent weeks, Sweden has held intensive dialogues with our partners in the EU and NATO. In light of this, the Government announced today that we, together with Germany and other countries in the ‘Leopard family’, will send ten Swedish Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine.
Because we stand with Ukraine!
This past year, Ukraine has paid a high price for its freedom. And as if the tragic loss of soldiers’ and civilians’ lives weren’t enough, Russia has reminded us that this barbarism occurs even now: Bucha. Izium.
The names of these places are enough to conjure the images. The bodies lying on the ground with their hands tied. Cold-blooded murder. Not because they committed an offence, but because they simply existed. Because they were Ukrainians and wanted to remain Ukrainians.
Russia’s war crimes remind us of the absolute worst chapters in European history. But Ukraine’s resistance also reminds us of the proudest moments.
And they remind us of our position. We have gathered here today to demonstrate that we support democracy and freedom.
We stand with Ukraine!
Just as generations before us, we have a decision to make. Do we stand completely with those who oppress freedom or those who are oppressed but defend freedom?
There are some examples of this in modern history. The Norwegian resistance movement’s fight against Nazi Germany. Finland’s fight to defend itself against communism during the Finnish Winter War. There should be no doubt that Sweden supports the Ukrainians who are now following in their footsteps.
We don’t do it because we have to – we do it because we want to. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because the same blue and yellow values that guide Ukraine to a future of freedom and security also guide us.
Because there is a path to freedom and democracy, but also one that leads away from them. And this crossroads no longer includes neutrality.
When I read children’s books as a child, you chose between Cherry Valley and Thorn Rose Valley in The Brothers Lionheart.
As a teenager, this dividing line went along the Berlin Wall, between the free West and the captive East.
Today, the choice is between Ukrainian democracy and Russian tyranny – 1 700 kilometres from Sergels torg. Where do the democracies of the world stand in this fight? Let this be heard all the way to Kyiv – and Moscow.
We stand with Ukraine!
Last week, I visited Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Naturally, I met with President Zelenskyy again and was impressed by his leadership and resilience. But the strongest impression I got was not that he can do this – I knew that already.
I realised that everyone else can as well. The word that summarised all of my encounters more than anything – from the President and Prime Minister to the Prosecutor General to the train staff and impressive 20-year-old students at the Kyiv School of Economics was the following: determination.
They say: “We do what we have to, we do what we want.” Determination. They say: “We will win in the end. And since this has yet to happen, it isn’t over.”
Let us – here tonight – show them our determination. Because Ukraine will win – both the war and its freedom. And because we stand with Ukraine!