delivered 23 February 2023, Edinburgh, Scotland
Audio mp3 of Address Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
When we came together for an emergency debate a year ago tomorrow, a 40-mile-long convoy of Russian troops had crossed the Belarusian border and was headed for Kyiv. Hostomel airport, just outside the city, was under attack by Russian airborne troops as we spoke. It was abundantly clear to all of us that the Ukrainian capital and Government could fall in a matter of days.
We watched the footage and saw the photos of the residents of Kyiv, civilians, preparing to fight a desperate last stand with homemade Molotov cocktails against one of the largest militaries on earth. Eighteen-year-old high school students were being handed rifles and given hasty instructions on how to defend the neighborhoods they'd grown up in. President Zelenskyy was being offered evacuation by the Americans, with the prospect of setting up a Government in exile. His answer was that he needed "ammunition, not a ride."
The weeks that followed were horrific, but Kyiv didn't fall. That massive Russian convoy collapsed and retreated, and it became clear that Putinís fantasies of a swift victory would not be realized.
As the Russians withdrew, the horrors that they had inflicted on Ukrainian civilians became clear. The mayor of Hostomel, Yuri Prylypko, was murdered by Russian soldiers while delivering food and medicine to residents. His body was then booby-trapped, almost killing the priest who came to bury him. In Bucha, north of Kyiv, Izyum in the east, and in other towns across liberated areas, torture chambers and mass graves have been discovered. In still-occupied Skadovsk, a local nurse, Tetiana Mudrenko, was executed by hanging in the town square by collaborators. Her crime was telling the Russian occupiers that Skadovsk was, and would remain, part of Ukraine.
The past year has been horrific for the people of Ukraine. They've endured trauma that we can scarcely imagine. But they've not given in. The Kremlinís plan was for Ukrainian independence to end in 2022 after a three-day invasion.
That plan failed.
It failed at Hostomel airport, where 300 Ukrainian national guardsmen routed Putinís elite airborne troops.
It failed in Kherson, from where we saw the amazing footage, last November, of Ukrainian soldiers being greeted by cheering, crying crowds as they re-entered the city.
And it failed in Mariupol, a city almost completely destroyed and still under Russian occupation today -- but whose defenders fought one of the most effective defensive operations in modern urban warfare. Without any chance of winning that battle, Ukrainian soldiers and police officers fought on for nearly three months, making their final stand at the Azovstal steel plant. That effort held up Russian divisions many times their size and undoubtedly saved other towns and cities across the south from a similar fate.
The Ukrainian defenders at Mariupol included the Azov Battalion, who I mentioned in my contribution this time last year.1 The Azov Battalion was founded by neo-Nazis and, [although] it's a very different organization years after having been integrated into the Ukrainian army, there is still a fascist presence. It's uncomfortable to see soldiers of a nation whose struggle we absolutely support giving interviews in western media while wearing fascist iconography like the black sun. I'm glad that NATO removed their promotional photo of a Ukrainian soldier whose uniform prominently featured that icon.
That's not remotely close to the most important issue in this war, and raising it shouldn't seen for a second as a lack of support for Ukraineís struggle. As somebody on the Kremlinís sanctions list, I hope that no one would accuse me of that. But as a key supporter of Ukraine, the UK has a responsibility to speak some truth to our ally, especially when Russia is pushing the utterly disingenuous nonsense of neo-Nazi influence as justification for their wicked invasion. I would hope that no one here would tolerate British soldiers wearing that kind of iconography, so we should help those that we are arming to similarly make clear that it is unacceptable for their own troops.
Nonsense claims about the influence of the Azov Battalion are being used by Putinís useful idiots here and elsewhere to undermine public support for Ukraine. And given how long this war is sadly likely to last, we cannot give an inch to those seeking to undermine our solidarity. Those same useful idiots often disingenuously claim that some kind of compromise needs [to] be reached, pretending that their only interest is in a peaceful end to the war.
But what would that compromise look like?
Compromise implies giving Russia something it didn't have a year ago -- something that it could walk away with. The Ukrainians have rightly made it clear that they will not cede an inch of their territory to an invading power. And what right do outside players have to tell Ukrainian citizens that the price of peace is their continuing to live under an occupying force? Which tortures and massacres them? Which hangs civilian protesters in town squares? Peace is the absence of violence and the presence of justice.2 There would be neither of those for Ukrainians living under Russian occupation.
Beyond supplying the equipment needed by Ukraineís Armed Forces -- which Scottish Greens support -- European nations must step up our sanctions efforts and dramatically speed up our transition away from fossil fuels, robbing Putin of the geopolitical weapon that he has wielded for 20 years. The UK may have only sourced a very small fraction of our gas from Russia before this war, but companies here have played a key role in supporting Russiaís oil and gas sector.
I hope that others were as horrified as I was by the revelation that Scottish-based Baker Hughes3 continued shipping equipment to Russia as late as June  -- months after the war began.4 And I welcome the Deputy First Ministerís robust response to my request that the Scottish Government withhold grant support to companies still contributing, however indirectly, to the Russian war machine.
The people of Scotland should be proud of the solidarity shown to our Ukrainian friends. We have welcomed a number of Ukrainian refugees far in excess of our share of the UK population. Huge sums of money and tons of supplies have been collected here. And the Scottish Government is straining its limited powers in this area to make the sanctions and economic pressure on Russia as effective as possible.
It's easy for us to take freedom for granted. There's been no serious threat to our own for decades, here. But 30 years after the end of the Cold War and what was then claimed by some to be the irreversible forward march of democracy, we can see on our own continent how fragile freedom really is.
However peripheral our role is, history will judge all of us on what we did to defend freedom in Ukraine. This afternoon, we will unanimously declare, once again, that Scotlandís role is to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and to do all within our power to aid their victory.
Slava Ukraini! [Glory to Ukraine!]
1 Quotation from MSP Geer's contribution: "It was incumbent on Ukraineís allies, such as the UK, to object after 2014, when the Azov Battalion, an explicitly neo-Nazi paramilitary, was integrated into the regular Ukrainian army. That was a propaganda coup for the Kremlin. However, that does not alter the fact that Ukraine is a liberal democracy with one of the most electorally marginalised far-rights in Europe. The real fascists here are those in the Kremlin and their puppets in the Donbas. Every democratic nation, especially those in Europe, must stand with Ukraine today." [Source: parliament.scot]
2 An echo of the sentiments -- if not the diction precisely -- of Albert Einstein's "Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, of law, of order -- in short, of governmentĒ and Martin Luther King's "True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice." [Sources: https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/ureport/article/2001337053/opinion-peace-is-not-the-absence-of-war/ --and-- https://quoteinvestigator.com/2020/11/26/true-peace/]
3 Baker Hughes is a global energy technology company headquartered in Houston, Texas and incorporated in Delaware. It operates in over 120 countries including Scotland.
4 For added context see here and here.
Original Text, Audio, Video Sources:
Text Note: Transcript corrected to reflect accurately the
speaker's verbal delivery. Modest word spelling modifications to reflect
Standard American English. Supplemental transcription work by Michael E.
Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement
Video Note: Original resolution reduced from 1080p to 720p and
frame interpolated from 25fps to 60fps
Page Updated: 3/2/23
Text Note: Transcript corrected to reflect accurately the speaker's verbal delivery. Modest word spelling modifications to reflect Standard American English. Supplemental transcription work by Michael E. Eidenmuller
Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement
Video Note: Original resolution reduced from 1080p to 720p and frame interpolated from 25fps to 60fps
Page Updated: 3/2/23
U.S. Copyright Status: Text, Audio, Video = Contains information licensed under the Scottish Parliament Copyright Licence and used in compliance with the terms located here.
© Copyright 2001-Present.