”Peace can no longer be taken for granted - we should all realize that and do more to defend it."
Fredrik Wesslau. Photo: EUAM Ukraine
– It feels very important and meaningful to contribute to the mission's work to support Ukraine, especially after Russia's invasion in February this year. At the core, it is about defending values such as human rights, freedom, and democracy. The war is existential for Ukraine, but also extremely important for Europe because it concerns our security – the European and global security order, says Wesslau.
EUAM has filled an advisory function in Ukraine since 2014, focusing on reforming the civilian security sector. The mandate was expanded in April 2022; one of the new tasks is to assist the Ukrainian authorities in managing war crimes committed by Russia since the start of its invasion.
– Our advisors' support has been critical to the Ukrainian Prosecutor's Office’s capacity to develop its strategy for prosecuting war crimes and pursuing several important legal processes. We have also sent experts to crime scenes, such as Butja and Irpin, to assist the police in collecting evidence. This has contributed to the authority taking on this enormous task in a professional manner.
So far, around 35,000 individual cases of war crimes have been recorded, but the number is likely to rise significantly, Wesslau predicts, stressing the importance of accountability – that those responsible for attacks on the civilian population and civilian targets, including hospitals, healthcare facilities, schools and places where people seek protection, are held accountable in accordance with international law.
Operating in wartime
After the war broke out in February 2022, both Wesslau and associates were evacuated from Ukraine to Moldova. Since March, he has been back in the country and continued to work from different cities; Lviv, Odessa and Kyiv. To meet the needs, EUAM quickly redistributed project funds to purchase food parcels, armored cars, satellites, safety jackets and other equipment that were donated to Ukrainian authorities. EUAM has also supported the Ukrainian security and intelligence services in various ways.
– There has probably never been a normal working day for me, and now even less so than before. This also applies to life outside of work. Before the war, Kyiv was an ordinary, pleasant European capital. Today, the security situation creates major challenges. Russia regularly fires missiles at the city, and much time is spent in shelters. The situation can deteriorate very quickly, says Wesslau.
Despite the volatile situation, the plan is for all international and national employees at EUAM to be on site in Ukraine at the end of September.
– The mission has a solid security arrangement, but it involves a calculated risk. Making life completely risk-free is never possible – and that's how it is if you work in this sector. It can be stressful psychologically and it requires that you can relate to the situation in a healthy way.
As one of the driving forces for a return to the country, Wesslau underlines the importance of the mission being in place in Ukraine. The operational advantages are obvious, but it also sends an important signal to Ukraine, Russia and the rest of the world – that the EU continues to support Ukraine.
– What has been destroyed by Russian troops and missiles needs to be rebuilt, but it is also about instilling hope in the population. Hope that a better future awaits after the devastation – a future for Ukraine in the EU.
FBA has over time seconded a large number of civilian personnel to international operations for peace and development in Ukraine. Currently, 14 people are supporting operations led by the EU, the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
EUAM Ukraine is a civilian EU operation, established in 2014 with headquarters in Kyiv. Before the war, there were also field offices in Lviv, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Odessa. The mission has a staff strength of 350. The overall goal is to help Ukraine reform the police, prosecutor's office, security services, and other agencies in the security sector to strengthen the rule of law in Ukraine.