Rutte: Putin has "attacked everything we've built since WWII"
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was "heartbreaking." During his regular press conference after his weekly meeting with Cabinet ministers, Rutte said the Russian military action "is also an attack on everything we have built after the Second World War. It is the biggest violation of international law since 1945, by far."
The prime minister added, "The whole world is united in its cry for Putin to withdraw from Ukraine." Rutte affirmed that it will not lead to divisions in the West. Far from it, Rutte told of how the European Union countries and its allies are united against the tactics of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“If Putin has tried to create division, he has gained unity. We have prepared a sanctions package against those responsible. The Russian regime and its leader. Adding Putin to the list succeeded," Rutte said, adding that he was pleased the Russian leader will be held accountable. "Compared to the sanctions package following the Crimea [annexation], this is ten times heavier."
The sanctions are now in the hands of member states who have to implement them. There were objections with the European Union about barring Russia from the SWIFT banking transaction system. Rutte initially spoke against this, saying that it could be a useful tool to further tighten sanctions if Russia does not back down and withdraw from Ukraine. A majority of Dutch MPs support blocking Russia from SWIFT, including those from Rutte's own party.
During Friday's press conference, Rutte said that he argued in favor of barring Russia from SWIFT, and said he also "really wanted" Putin's name on the sanctions list. "It could still be decided at a later date to add SWIFT," Rutte said. Earlier in the day, he told journalists in Brussels, "A number of countries are hesitant since it has serious consequences for themselves."
After the meeting of Cabinet members, Eric van den Burg, the state secretary who handles immigration issues, said that the Ukrainians fleeing to the Netherlands as refugees will have to rely on municipalities to arrange housing for them. It is not clear how many refugees will travel to the Netherlands once they enter the European Union, likely at the Ukrainian border with Poland, Trouw reported. If they arrive in the Netherlands with a passport, they may not have to enter the formal asylum procedure.
"We are working on different scenarios, but it is fair to say that these are all very 'if-this-then-that' situations, because we do not know how the conflict in Ukraine will develop. Three days ago, we didn't expect to have this conversation," Van den Burg said. He said that European countries will have to work on the refugee situation together.