Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence

Situation in Ukraine: Engagement with Ukrainian Committee on Foreign Affairs and Inter-Parliamentary Co-operation

Mr. Oleksandr Merezhko:

The Senator asked about promises that have been made. One of our colleagues from Ireland who recently visited Kyiv used very wise words. He said that words are empty and that what really matters are deeds. I understand that the Russian war against Ukraine has shown us who are our true friends and who are unreliable or sometimes reluctant partners. There are states, unfortunately, which could be true European leaders and provide us with all necessary help but they are not doing it or they are dragging their feet on the delivery of supplies by making promises.

To tell the truth, I am bitterly disappointed in these big countries, unfortunately. They have damaged their own credibility by promising to do something. Maybe they do not want to understand that each day of our resistance costs us lots of lives of our soldiers and civilians. Each day of delay is translated into terrible grief for the families of the people of our soldiers who were killed or injured. This makes it a very emotional and painful issue to me.

On the other hand, there are countries such as the United States which proved to be a reliable friend and partner. It understands our situation and delivered weapons within one day. They help us. The countries which support us wholeheartedly are not countries who need to be persuaded and where military aid has to be squeezed out of them. They are countries who have come to us and asked us "What can we do for you?" Among these countries is the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Ireland. These are our reliable friends.

Unfortunately, sometimes other countries are hesitant or less than enthusiastic, if I might put it that way. There are countries that can do a lot and which can really help us. They have the capabilities, economic and militarily, but for some reason they do not. I do not know how to explain this. Maybe there are politicians in those countries who are not eager to provide us with military help in the hope Russia will break us and we will have to agree to the ultimatum and demands of Russia and the governments will return to business as usual with Russia. They will continue to buy Russian gas and Russian oil. Maybe Russia has politicians in those countries and maybe they are influential enough, unfortunately.

On neutrality, I quoted Kennedy. I heard a phrase from one of the Irish colleagues that there is no neutrality in the face of struggle between evil and freedom. When you give weapons to a victim of aggression and help to defend the victim of aggression, it is a very noble thing. This is what humanity and conscience is about. There can be no neutrality. When you see a hooligan killing an innocent person, there should not be any neutrality. The committee will excuse me for using this metaphor, but in international relations it also happens.

On vehicles and ships, one of my colleagues was in the United States talking to one of the governors. They asked what they should ask the Government for to help the Ukraine army. I sent the message to my colleague who is more knowledgeable. He gave me a simple, one-word answer to what the army needed: everything. It is true. We are grateful for every kind of help and support. It means a lot to us because we are in a situation where everything can be helpful to withstand this enormous pressure of Russian aggression. Of course, we are grateful for every kind of support.

On bridges, I am not knowledgeable for these kinds of things but I live in Kyiv and I have spent all these days there from the 24th. Especially at the beginning, my concern was that the bridges were blown up around Kyiv and I was afraid of a blockade and that the city might be starved to death. But then the bridges were restored very quickly. I am not a specialist or an engineer but I saw they were restored very quickly, perhaps with makeshift bridges. We need these kinds of temporary bridges which help us bring food, necessary resources and so on.

On how we are coping with the loss of lives, it is a problem. When you are fighting against the second biggest army in the world, the best and most experienced soldiers sometimes have to sacrifice their lives. It is a problem for us. Every person to lose their life is a huge tragedy, not only for the family and loved ones but also for the whole country. Yesterday, the shopping mall was hit. Watching the footage was really heartbreaking. We have to live in this. We are peaceful people and we want this war to end as soon as possible but there are certain red lines. The problem is at what cost. For us, the red lines are our territorial integrity, our freedom and our right to choose to be part of the European family. It is also about our security. What can stop the war and prevent future loss of life? Only heavy weapons. Heavy weaponry is the best kind of humanitarian aid. For us it is also a humanitarian issue. Putin only understands a language of strength. The more we are protected and the more heavy weaponry we have, the more effectively we defend ourselves and the fewer casualties there will be.