Joint statement on the Situation in Ukraine by the Swedish and Lithuanian Ministers of Defence

Statement by the Swedish Minister of Defence Peter Hultqvist and the Lithuanian Minister of Defence Juozas Olekaz.

We have had a constructive meeting with defence minister Poltorak discussing the military situation in Eastern Ukraine, the ongoing Russian aggression and the relations between our countries.
For us as defence ministers of Lithuania and Sweden this visit is an important way of showing our solidarity with Ukraine and our resolute support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In a few weeks´ time, two years will have passed since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea. Today the world's eyes are turning to the crisis in Syria and other parts of the world. But no matter how grave other crises are, they must not serve as an excuse for forgetting about Crimea. It is unacceptable that a powerful neighbour uses military force, deception and disinformation to change borders in Europe in the 21th century.

We stand firmly by the side of Ukraine in that respect.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine continues. Despite persistent Russian denials we know that regular Russian troops are present in Donbass. It continues to support the separatists with equipment, training and advice and to control them for its purposes. Numerous ceasefires have been negotiated and agreed. None has been fully respected. (Over the last 24 hours there have been 47 shootings.) The ceasefire must be respected, Russian troops and weaponry must leave Ukrainian territory and Ukrainian control of its state border must be restored.

The Minsk agreement remains the key to reach a solution to the conflict. We do understand, however, that the absence of Russian delivery on its Minsk commitments presents Ukraine with a domestic challenge to implement its own Minsk obligations.

In general, we commend Ukraine for its progress of democratic and economic reforms achieved so far. At the same time we recognise the extent of the work that remains to be done. Considering the challenges ahead, no time must be lost and it is important that the Ukrainian leadership remains united and focused on the reform process. Successful reforms are indeed the best response to the Russian aggression.

In the sphere of foreign policy, Ukraine, as any sovereign country, has the right to make her own choices on security policy and make other fundamental choices about its own future. We cannot accept that another country interferes with that right. We will not accept any attempts to undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine.

Our presence here today is a sign of our determination to support Ukraine and stand by her side.

18 February 2016, Kyiv