Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned of “serious consequences” if Moscow chooses to further invade Ukraine, during his visit to Kyiv on Feb. 2.
A renewed invasion of Ukraine will trigger a “robust” package of Western sanctions, Rutte said during a joint press conference following his talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky.
However, Rutte emphasized that it's crucial to continue dialogue with Russia to defuse the tensions on the Ukrainian border and make every effort to “de-escalate the dangerous situation in which we find ourselves.”
Rutte's comments come amid the ongoing Russian military build-up. According to Ukrainian officials, Russia concentrated over 120,000 troops, a wide range of military equipment and aircraft along the Ukrainian border.
The new satellite imagery by Maxar, released on Feb. 2, showed ongoing steady Russian military deployment around Ukraine.
“The only route to a solution is through de-escalation, diplomacy and dialogue,” Rutte said.
Rutte is the latest NATO leader to visit Kyiv in a show of solidarity as Russia’s military buildup continues to stir up Western fears that Moscow could be planning an all-out invasion of Ukraine.
Nonetheless, the Dutch prime minister focused on humanitarian issues as well.
Rutte announced that the Netherlands will donate $450,000 to help combat COVID-19 in eastern Ukraine and offered Dutch assistance to fend off cyberattacks. The Netherlands has also agreed to launch a joint program to build 48 hospitals and rehabilitation centers for Ukrainian armed forces and veterans.
Rutte said the Netherlands will support Ukraine “wherever we can.”
Despite being overshadowed by the ongoing Russian escalation, the meeting was planned in advance, with the key issue being the downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger flight by Russian-led troops over eastern Ukraine in 2014.
A missile brought down plane MH17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and killed all 298 people on board, most of whom were Dutch citizens.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague confirmed prior independent findings that Russia shot down the plane using the Buk ground-to-air missile transported from Russia to Russian-occupied eastern Donbas.
The court also heard witnesses who saw the missile launch from a location controlled by Russian-backed forces. The court charged four Kremlin-linked suspects with downing the plane.
Among them are three Russian citizens – Igor Girkin, a former colonel of Russia’s FSB security agency who was appointed the militants’ minister of defense in Donetsk, Sergei Dubinsky, who headed Russia’s military intelligence unit in Donetsk and Oleg Pulatov, a deputy of Dubinsky.
The fourth man charged is Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian national who commanded a Russian-backed military unit in eastern Ukraine. The trial is ongoing.
Despite compelling evidence, Russia denies any involvement in the crash.
Rutte vowed to secure justice for the families of the victims. He said the Netherland’s priorities are to establish the truth of what happened and hold those responsible to account.
"It's not an easy process but giving up is not an option for both of us," Rutte said looking at Zelensky.