The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent war is not merely a clash between two nations but a war between two systems, authoritarianism and democracy. As a result, Ukraine has to be a successful model of this. Strong words by Oleksandra Matviychuk, a human rights lawyer and Chair of the Centre for Civil Liberties, who was one of the awardees of the European Parliament’s 2022 Sakharov People, on behalf of the people of Ukraine.
Addressing a seminar hosted by the European Parliament Office in Malta, Matviychuk argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “not afraid of NATO, but of the idea of freedom”. She added that war really and truly started in 2014, after the Revolution of Dignity. “The Russian President tried to convinve Ukraininans that we made the wrong choice when seeking democracy and a move to the Western civilisation” she asking, building up the context for her country’s appeal for further financial, logistical and military support towards Ukraine.
Her sentiments were echoed by Yaroslav Bozhko, representing The Yellow Ribbon Civil Resistance Movement, another of the Sakharov Prize Laureates, which owes its origins to the Mariupol resistance. He insisted that a Ukrainian win would make the world stronger since it would represent the victory of freedom and democracy. He argued that should the solution remain one which sees no winner in the conflict, will lead to an extended period of cold war between democracy and authoritarianism. Mr Bozhhko shared details of the extensive human rights violations by the Russian military, stemming all the way up to the President himself. “The fact that the attacks are targeting energy infrastrucure, seeking to leave hospitals, schools and apartment blocks without heating are a clear demonstration tha this is a war agains people.
The seminar which focused on the human rights impact of the war was addressed remotely by the EP President Roberta Metsola who expressed pride at the way Europe stood up to Putin and is holding the Kremlin to account. “Europe is more united than before. Putin mistook our debates for weakness. Europe’s response was outstanding. By chosing to open their borders, hearts and homes, Europeans have triggered a remarkable display of solidarity”, she added, recalling that more than 1,000 Ukrainians came to Malta in the first three months after the invasion.
S&D MEP Cyrus Engerer argued that the EU should keep building ties with international powers but in doing so it needs to ensure that the states it does so with hold fundamental rights at heart. He recalled, in this context, that some countries are signatories of the UN Charter of Fundamental Rights but have not yet condemned the illegal invasion of Ukraine.
Photo- European Parliament Office – Malta