September 16, 20123
It is a privilege to be here with you today. This event reinforces the strength of the friendship between Moldova and Ukraine – not just the governments, but also the people, who have shown what it means to stand in solidarity with a neighbor in need.
Over 900,000 refugees from Ukraine have entered Moldova since the onset of the conflict, and Moldovans have opened their hearts and homes to host the more than 100,000 Ukrainians who have remained.
The United States has stood with Ukraine and Moldova, providing more than $664.4 million in assistance to Moldova since the start of Russia’s full-scale war, including $43 million in additional support to Ukrainian refugees and Moldovan host communities that Secretary Blinken announced during his visit to Kyiv last week.
The reason that the Kremlin’s plans in Ukraine have failed – and will never succeed – is that it underestimated the Ukrainian people. It underestimated the resolve of the free world to support Ukraine for as long as it takes. Most of all, it underestimated the women of Ukraine and of this region. Russia’s bombs fall on maternity hospitals, its soldiers use rape as a weapon of war, its so-called human rights officials enable the forced deportations of thousands of Ukrainian children.
But Ukrainian women have shown that these atrocities will never allow Russia’s aggression to succeed. More than 60,000 Ukrainian women are defending their country in the military. Thousands more work every day as civilians to enable Ukraine to resist, to survive, and soon to rebuild. What a difference, between the brutality of Russia’s forces and the bravery of Ukrainian women. As Ukrainian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oleksandra Matviichuk has said, “This is not a war between two nations, this is a war between two systems — authoritarianism and democracy.”
First Lady Zelenska embodies that bravery and inspires us all. So does President Sandu, who has led her country through crisis with an abiding moral clarity.
Ukrainian women – whether recently arrived, or those whose families have lived in Moldova for centuries – have also inspired us, building a strong community that is an essential part of Moldovan society, and I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the “Community of Ukrainian Women in Moldova” on its 30th anniversary.
As Moldova and Ukraine continue on their paths toward European integration, women will play an essential role, and future generations of women leaders in this region will build on the groundwork that is being laid today as Ukraine and Moldova solidify their place within the family of democracies.
The United States is committed to advancing the rights of women and girls around the world, and we are grateful to our partners at the National Congress of Ukrainians for organizing this event. Furthering women’s representation and empowerment is key to building a more prosperous, democratic, and secure future in Moldova and in the region.