Dear Mr Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, dear Ruslan Stefanchuk! Ladies and gentlemen – Deputy Chairmen! Ladies and gentlemen of the Parliament! Mr Ambassador of France to Ukraine!

The moment has finally come when I stand before you in this hall to reaffirm France's unwavering support for Ukraine.

First of all, I would like to thank you personally, Mr Speaker, for welcoming me here in the Verkhovna Rada, where the heart of Ukrainian democracy beats, just as we welcomed you in the National Assembly in France on 31 January last year. For even though our ties go back to the time of Anna of Kyiv, daughter of the Prince Yaroslav the Wise, wife of King Henry I of France, and thus almost a thousand years, it is during the democratisation of Ukraine that they have been steadily strengthened to become a strong friendship between two sovereign peoples who have chosen pluralism and the rule of law. No doubt, it is this choice, this desire for democracy, that has finally irritated the kremlin's master. The elections he recently held fooled no one, nor did the coercive referendums he organised in Crimea and then in Donbas. His sham democracy, without a free press, without viable opponents, only proves his contempt for human rights and the fundamental guarantees to which we are so fervently committed.

More than two years ago, in flagrant violation of all principles of international law, russia launched a war of aggression against your country, breaking its word and failing to honour its obligations and commitments to the international community and to you. With their large-scale coordinated offensive, the armed forces of the russian federation violated the borders of your country, hoping to capture Kyiv and establish their own order. But Kyiv has withstood, Ukraine has withstood, and by breaking this russian offensive, Europe has withstood. The international community responded by imposing numerous sanctions on the aggressor, supporting the victim of aggression at all levels: political, humanitarian, and military. This war has brought Europeans even closer together.  We have realised that danger is at our doorstep and that we must make every effort to guarantee our collective security. Europe's defence is no longer a taboo, and France, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, has significantly increased its defence budget, including through an ambitious law on military spending programming. In 2022-23, bilaterally or through the European Peace Fund, France provided Ukraine with more than €3.8 billion in military equipment and training in response to its operational needs: SCALP missiles, CAESAR guns, ammunition. And I assure you that this support is and will be long-term.

It also includes economic and financial assistance, despite the necessary humanitarian aid for emergency response of more than €300 million spent directly through NGOs, UN agencies or international organisations. And in France, a wave of solidarity has made it possible to welcome around 100,000 refugees. Our local communities have mobilised to provide schooling for 18,000 Ukrainian children.

In this context, I am proud to say that the French National Assembly has not stood aside from the very beginning of my presidency.

On 12 March this year, I had the honour of presiding over a meeting during which French deputies overwhelmingly approved the Agreement on Security Cooperation with Ukraine. This vote, while demonstrating support for the Government's clear policy, is also a logical outcome of the numerous exchanges and contacts that took place in 2022.

In September 2022, I paid a visit to Kyiv, where we signed a protocol on cooperation between the National Assembly and the Verkhovna Rada. On 30 November of the same year, unanimously, with the exception of only one vote, French MPs adopted a resolution reaffirming their support for Ukraine. On 28 March, we condemned the Holodomor as a crime of genocide. On 9 May 2023, we unanimously approved the inclusion of the Wagner Group in the list of terrorist organisations. And on 18 May last year, our Foreign Affairs Committee supported a European resolution condemning the forced displacement of Ukrainian children by the russian federation.

On 28 June, we met with you, dear Ruslan, via videoconference, in the aftermath of the horrific explosion of the Kakhovka dam, and on 7 September we met again, this time live, in Tokyo, where you were the guest of honour at the G7 parliamentary summit.

The following month, on 24 October, I took part in the Second Crimean Platform Summit in Prague. And more recently, on 6 March, when I hosted the heads of 24 parliaments from around the world in Paris, I opened this unprecedented Summit by giving the floor to your Nobel laureate Oleksandra Matviichuk, who emotionally conveyed to the participants the need for justice that your nation seeks.

I can also recall the letter to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, which I signed together with 22 other parliamentary presidents, including Gérard Larcher, the President of the French Senate. It was a truly strong-willed breakthrough of parliamentary diplomacy on your initiative, dear Ruslan. And we agree, the United States must honour its promises, because the future of those who believe in democracy is at stake.

Finally, today I am back in Kyiv. As in 2022, I am accompanied by a distinguished delegation, including Valérie Rabault, the First Deputy President of the National Assembly. I am grateful for her loyal support at all times. Thomas Gassilloud, the Chairman of the Defence Committee, and Benjamin Haddad, the Chairman of the France-Ukraine Friendship Group. I thank them for being with me and for being together, shoulder to shoulder with you.

This is parliamentary diplomacy, which I believe in so strongly and which I know you are also a passionate supporter of, dear Ruslan. To establish direct links between our parliaments and their respective bodies, to maintain constant contact at the level of our committees and friendship groups. This means strengthening ties, building new bridges between our nations, without weakening the executive branch of our countries, because our goals are the same – to guarantee compliance with international law, restore Ukraine's territorial integrity and punish war criminals. In this community of views, there are sometimes very blessed moments, and to be in politics is also to be interested in and pay attention to the people who elect us.

And I would like to briefly recall a chance meeting in a train carriage between a member of the National Assembly and a Ukrainian refugee, who took a liking to each other and decided to marry. As the couple settled in my city, it was I who performed their marriage in the Town Hall, and you, dear Ruslan, agreed to congratulate them via video. And I will always remember the emotions of your compatriot, who is in France today, when she received a powerful message of friendship and respect from the Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament. This is more than just a life story. The fate of this couple shows us how Ukraine and France are now more closely linked than ever since your beautiful Ukraine gained independence.

Already in 1992, France was among the first countries to open an embassy in Kyiv. Since the beginning of the war, France has been making every effort to preserve peace and has been supporting the struggle of the Ukrainian people for their independence and freedom.

Back in the eighteenth century, Voltaire loudly declared: Ukraine has always wanted to be free. He hailed the majestic figure of Mazepa, as well as his people, who, in his words, were overly in love with the most desirable of riches – freedom. The embodiment of this indomitable desire to live in freedom, Mazepa also inspired Victor Hugo to write a great poem, from which I will quote only one stanza, but how prophetic it is: “His wild greatness will be born of his torment”.

Yes, Ukraine and its people have been tortured, tormented in its history, and today it is happening again through this senseless war that has plunged the whole of Europe into a multidimensional crisis, through the trials, through the massacres, through the worst crimes that have been committed in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol or Bakhmut, as well as in Lviv or Zhytomyr, where civilian infrastructure is regularly targeted by russian troops. And I will never forget what I saw in Chernihiv during my first trip to your country. Having gone through all these tragedies, Ukraine has gained the respect of the world with bloody wounds. I see this when I travel the world – everywhere where democracy lives, where freedom flourishes, Ukrainian flags fly as a sign of support.

The blue and gold of your flag are also the colours of a united Europe, of the entire European Union, which stands by you by granting you the status of a candidate country at the European Council meeting on 23 June last year. I welcome the efforts made to achieve this result, which is the first step towards your integration into the common space of democracy, which Ukraine's vocation is to join in due course.

On the path to full membership in the European Union, Ukraine can count on the help and support of France, which has spared no effort since its presidency of the EU Council in 2022.

Ukraine's greatness is measured not only on the battlefield. At a time when your children are standing up to an invader, you, the legislators, you, the politicians, are implementing the reforms that are necessary for your integration into the big European family.

I want to express to you my admiration for Ukraine's ability to fight on two fronts simultaneously: the military and the political. Two fronts that are ultimately one. The first is against the fatality of dictatorship, and the second is for the hope of democracy and prosperity that mobilises your entire nation.

As a European, I feel very proud that your European aspirations are one of the driving forces behind Ukraine's courage, which the world admires. As Ukraine reforms, modernises its structures, and fights corruption, it does not pass laws to meet a particular externally dictated membership criterion. It does so for itself and for the sake of the destiny it has chosen. As it transforms, it grows stronger, more efficient and powerful, enriches itself and takes the place it deserves in the twenty-first century – that of a great nation with a long history, hardened by trials and determined to play its part in the European Union and the international community.

Indeed, by becoming a pluralistic democracy, the various components of which I see before me here, Ukraine has long since taken a decisive step towards this goal.

Ukraine's strength comes first and foremost from its democratic nature, which ensures both its reputation in the world and its ability to peacefully and openly discuss important issues in the country's best interest and only that interest.

Even in the difficult situation you are in, it is necessary to preserve the integrity of your democratic and parliamentary institutions. The ability of Ukrainian political forces to participate in a busy public life, while maintaining the ability to come together here for the sake of the highest interests of the homeland when necessary, is a real treasure. You have been able to preserve it, and this is important at a time when russian propaganda is always ready to exploit any of your weaknesses to turn it against you.

The autocrat putin has demonstrated the folly of unilateral decisions and arbitrariness. Having dragged his people into war, he has failed in his plans and claims. Ukraine not only did not surrender, but became stronger. NATO has not only played its role well, but historically neutral states such as Sweden and Finland have decided to join. The European Union not only did not allow this to happen, but mobilised itself, as well as its members, its local communities, and its citizens, to help friendly democracies under unjust attack. Since 2022, the total amount of European support for Ukraine has reached 89 billion euros.

Through the voice of its President Emmanuel Macron, France has called for a leap forward in support of Ukraine. This was the message of the conference that took place in Paris on 26 February this year, bringing together 27 heads of state and government to demonstrate our resolve to russia. On this occasion, strong commitments were made to provide your army with the necessary ammunition, to strengthen your air defence and long-range weapons.

It was decided to make new efforts to strengthen your cyber defence and demining capabilities, to launch joint weapons production directly in Ukraine, to secure the border with belarus and to protect countries under immediate threat, such as Moldova.

In addition, and this is the whole point of the President Emmanuel Macron's statements, russia, which does not respect any rules, must know that we do not set a priori limits to our commitments and there are no a priori exceptions to what may be necessary to support you in defending your country and the universal values for which your soldiers are fighting.

Your security is directly linked to ours, and we must draw the appropriate conclusions. At a time when the russian autocracy was increasingly being condemned by nations on the international stage, with support only from dictatorships such as belarus and north korea, Ukraine, born of the Maidan, managed to rise in ways that surprised the world.

That is why I would like to end with a message of hope and a call to action. At a time when the conflict seems to be reaching a stalemate, when some observers in Europe and America, concerned for their comfort, dare to declare fatigue with the drama unfolding on your land, I would like to outline the horizon to which our efforts are striving and will never cease to strive. The day will come when a peaceful Ukraine srestore its legal borders. The day will come when the 26 free cities belonging to Crimea and Donbas, which I see here in the hall, are filled. The day will come when martyr cities  rise again, when war criminals pay, when grain from Ukrainian fields once again feeds all those suffering from hunger without hindrance.

There will come a day – and this day is no doubt not so far away – when men and women will travel freely from Kyiv to Paris, from Brest to Kharkiv, universities will exchange students, and trade in goods and services will unite our businesses in peace even more than we are united in war. The day will come when Ukraine will no longer be a frontline, but the “eastern gate” of the European Union, majestic and welcoming, like all your people. This day will be the day of Victory, your Victory. You are not alone in this, and you can count on France, together with its partners, France will help to strengthen its defence industry, just as it will soon help to rebuild it.

The day after tomorrow, I will travel to Odesa, the most French of Ukrainian cities since Duke de Richelieu turned a small fishing village into a magnificent port city two centuries ago, modelled on Marseille, which is now Odesa's sister city. This is a beautiful example of what our two peoples are capable of when they join forces, when our two cultures strive for a common goal.

A World Heritage Site, an industrial and commercial metropolis, Odesa has also suffered and continues to suffer. However, despite the bombing, despite the russians' desire to close the Black Sea, despite attempts at disinformation and destabilisation, Odesa has resisted and withstood the odds, creating the opportunity to export almost as much grain and steel through the Black Sea and the Ukrainian humanitarian corridor as before the war. I will go to show, together with its people, that France stands with the Ukrainian people not only in Kyiv but across the country.

Wherever civilians are being targeted, wherever historical monuments and vital infrastructure are being hit, know that you will have the support and friendship of the French National Assembly.

Today I am honoured to address you in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. And in a few days, I will be a voice for the suffering, needs and legitimate aspirations of the Ukrainian people in France and around the world. You can count on me, on us, as you can count on France and Europe. Glory to Ukraine!

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