By Oleksandra Matviichuk

As a human rights lawyer, I have been documenting war crimes in this war since Russia started it in 2014, so that sooner or later they would all be punished. As a human being, however, I understand that we cannot wait until then to stop them. That's why I advocate a quick start to the process of Ukraine's accession to NATO.

The number of war crimes we have faced is unprecedented. Russian troops have deliberately destroyed residential buildings, churches, schools and hospitals, attacked evacuation corridors, established a filtration camps system, organised forcible deportations, committed abductions, rapes and tortures and murdered civilians in the occupied areas.

This is not a war between two states. This is a war between two systems – authoritarianism and democracy. Russia is attempting to prove that democracy, the rule of law and human rights are fake values. If they are genuine, why can't they protect anyone? Why can't the entire international peace and security system stop Russian atrocities? Why am I, a human rights lawyer who has been using the law for many years to protect people, now forced to answer the question: "how can we help protect people from Russian aggression" by saying "give Ukraine modern weapons"?

Because for now, the law is not working. Although, I trust, this is only temporary.

For decades, the Russian military has been committing international crimes in Chechnya, Moldova, Georgia, Mali, Libya and Syria. They have never been punished for them.

We must break this circle of impunity. We must establish a special tribunal on the crime of aggression now and hold Putin, Lukashenko and others guilty of this crime accountable.

Yes, this is a bold step, but it is the right thing to do.

However, while as a human rights lawyer, I have been documenting war crimes so that one day all Russian criminals would be held accountable, as a human being I understand that we cannot wait until then to stop these crimes. That’s why I argue as follows:

As long as Ukraine remains vulnerable, the entire Euro-Atlantic security system remains vulnerable. Instead of NATO membership, some politicians are talking about some security assurances, which in reality cannot even be equated to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. How can separate assurances guarantee the security of such a large country, which cannot be covered with a single shield from Russian missiles? How much will they cost in the long-term perspective, particularly because of the direct consequences of insecurity, such as the "food crisis"? Do particular assurances allow us to achieve sustainability, when what is rebuilt today can be destroyed again tomorrow? Or to make it safe for millions of Ukrainian refugees to return to Ukraine?

Ukraine deserves to be a member of NATO. Ukraine shares the values of freedom and democracy and is ready to defend them. Ukraine will not be just a beneficiary, but a powerful contributor to the security of the Alliance. These are not promises; this is a fact proven on the battlefield. Ukraine will make NATO stronger.

The beginning of the actual accession of Ukraine to NATO is a way to end the war, not to expand it. Because "strategic uncertainty" will always serve as a reason for Russia to continue attacking Ukraine.

People in Ukraine expect concrete results from the NATO summit on 11-12 July 2023 in Vilnius. The time for assurances that the door to NATO is open has passed. Now it's time to make the decisions that will start the process of Ukraine's accession to NATO.

Russia has always been proactive. Russia has used wars and occupation of foreign territories to put the international community before a fait accompli and force it to reckon with the new reality . The democratic countries that participate in NATO should finally take the initiative to start managing this process. We have taken security for granted for too long. It is necessary to take responsibility for our common future.