Durbin Highlights Resilience of Ukrainian People Amid Putin's War

WASHINGTON  In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reflected on the resilience of the Ukrainian people and continued allied unity amid Putin’s unprovoked and illegal war. Yesterday, Durbin hosted members of the Ukrainian Parliament to receive an update on Putin’s war, and discuss calls for a special tribunal to hold Russian leaders accountable for the crime of aggression. Durbin was also joined by Ukrainian Ambassador-at-Large, Anton Korynevych.

Durbin said, “It’s been nearly 10 months since that cold, dark morning when I was in the departure area of Vilnius, Lithuania, with my colleague, Chris Coons. We watched on TV as Russia attempted to seize another sovereign country in the heart of Europe.  I will never forget those early scenes of Putin’s horror unleashed against Ukraine… But Putin and his henchmen failed miserably at understanding Ukraine and understanding their resolve to halt him and his brutality. His initial ploy to quickly topple Ukraine's democratic government and replace it with a puppet failed immediately, and other Russian military advances in eastern and southern Ukraine have been rolled back.”

Yesterday, Durbin met with United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield to discuss the UN’s response to the war in Ukraine. The UN Human Rights Council established an independent international commission of inquiry into the war and the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court opened an investigation for war crimes and crimes against humanity. During his speech, Durbin praised Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield for her leadership and expertise.

Durbin continued, “We're lucky to have her. She is truly a skillful, experienced, and talented person. She reminded me that earlier this year, more than 140 UN member states voted overwhelmingly in support of a resolution that deplored, in the strongest terms, Putin’s aggression.  It also affirmed the international community’s commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  Only five nations—the world’s worst dictatorships—aligned with Putin to vote against the measure, a reminder that Putin has utterly failed in pursing his twisted nostalgia for Soviet tyranny.”  

Durbin and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act, legislation that updates the current war crimes statute to enable prosecution of foreign war criminals in the United States regardless of the location or targets of their atrocities. The bill also extends the statute of limitations for war crimes discovered years after they occur.

Durbin also praised President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for their strategic leadership to push back against Putin. The U.S. and several key allies have imposed sanctions on nearly 8,400 Russian individuals, 1,500 Russian entities, and 100 Russian vessels. 

Durbin also spoke on the atrocities committed by Putin against the Ukrainian people. He showed photos of the damage and despair Russia has caused.

“It can be easy to get impatient, even despair, as Ukraine faces continued Russian bombardment of civilian targets—and in many cases war crimes specifically designed to terrorize civilian populations,”Durbin said.  “Just look at these recent photos—one of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, speaking with human rights defenders in an underground shelter during a recent airstrike alert in Kyiv.  And another of a child hauntingly looking on a damaged school… Ukrainian civil servants are working around the clock to restore access to electricity, water, and heat and to allow hospitals and schools to function.  The continued unified support and military assistance of NATO has been invaluable in providing this aid.”

Durbin concluded his speech by showing members of Ukraine’s National Philharmonic performing in a dark theater in Kyiv on Tuesday, lit by battery-powered lanterns onstage as a symbol of the Ukrainian people’s resilience and determination. 

“Russia will fail,” Durbin concluded.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.