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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)
News article25 February 2024Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations2 min read

Speech by President von der Leyen at the Antonov Airport

Speech by President von der Leyen at the Antonov Airport

This airport has witnessed Ukraine's darkest hour. Those fateful moments are etched forever in our collective memory. The flames, rising from the tarmac to the sky. The swarms of Russian helicopters, flying low along the river. The columns of tanks, descending fast from the border with Belarus. Exactly two years ago, it felt like everything was lost, and Kyiv would fall within days. But Kyiv stood strong. Your courage stood in Putin's way. You did not flee or flinch. A small contingent of Ukrainian heroes held back the invader, fighting to your last bullet and your last breath. And you managed to stop Russia's attack towards the heart of Ukraine. You saved your country. You saved all of Europe. And today, we are here from across Europe and the world to pay tribute to your bravery.

It is you – who gave a chance to Ukraine's resistance. And look at all that Ukraine has achieved ever since. On land, you have driven Russia out of half the territories it had captured. At sea, you have pushed back Russia's fleet, and re-opened a maritime corridor to the world. And in the air, your defences have become incredibly effective. You are protecting your people from Russian missiles and drones. And in the last week only, you shot down seven of Russia's fighter jets. All of this seemed impossible on the night when the war began. But time and again, the brave people of Ukraine have surprised the world. So however difficult the situation may look today, let us always remember the road you have walked so far. The resistance against a stronger enemy. And the victories against all odds. And I am confident that Ukraine will keep surprising us all, until the last Russian soldier is finally pushed out of your land.

Today, we are here to tell you that Europe will continue to stand at your side, for as long as it takes with more financial support, more ammunition, more training for your troops, more air defences, and more investment in Europe's and Ukraine's defence industries. And there is no better place than this airport to confirm our commitment to Ukraine. This airfield is not only a symbol of your resistance, it is also a symbol of your industry and ingenuity. It was the home of the largest airplane in the world: Mriya – the dream. Two years ago, the Russians destroyed the plane. But they could not destroy the dream. The dream of a free and prosperous Ukraine, that takes its place at the heart of the European family. Today, the dream lives on. And together, we will turn it into reality. There will be a free and sovereign Ukraine. There will be peace and prosperity. And there will be Europe. And the battle of Hostomel Airport will no longer be remembered as the darkest hour in our history, but as the beginning of a new era for Ukraine and for all of Europe.

Slava Ukraini.

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