On 24 February 2023, the Victor Pinchuk Foundation and Yalta European Strategy (YES) held a discussion “One Year in History: 24 Feb 2022-24 Feb 2023” during the Informal YES Gathering One Year - Stay in Fight dedicated to the first anniversary of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Speakers reflected on the year into the war and lessons that should be learned.
Gillian Tett, Editorial Board Chair, Editor-at-large, Financial Times, moderated the discussion. Among the speakers of the panel were Timothy Snyder (online), Richard C. Levin Professor of History, Yale University; Volodymyr Yermolenko, Philosopher, PhD in Political Studies; Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, activist, the frontman of the Okean Elzy band, and others.
Timothy Snyder said: “The alternative to integration is empire. And that is what Russia represents. Russia is an empire and Russia’s war against Ukraine can be characterized in many ways as genocidal, as illegal, as a war of aggression, as a violation of the laws of war, but it is, among other things, an imperial war. It’s a war to establish or reestablish the principle of empire in Europe. So the outcome of this war in a broadest possible sense has to do with what sort of Europe there will be.”
“This war has reminded us that history is never on anyone’s side. And we needed that reminder. If you want to have democracy, you have to say that you want it, you have to value it and take risks for it,” he added.
“I think that this is a possible turning point for those of us in the West, who forgot what democracy, or for that matter freedom, is all about. If we want to build an order that is based upon law, democracy and good institutions, we have to remember that values are behind the law, democracy and good institutions. And values are something that you are willing to take a risk for,” Snyder stressed.
Volodymyr Yermolenko picked up that point saying: “Russia is indeed the last empire in Europe and the European history in the XX century was the history of deempiralization.”
He also stressed the role of local communities in the war in Ukraine: “I travel a lot - I visited the south, the north, Kherson, Sumy, the front line, Izum, Slovyansk, Kramatorsk - everywhere I see that this resistance is based on local communities. And sometimes these communities resist even when the state pulls away. And that is very interesting.”
Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, in turn, praised the bravery of Ukrainians: “Because of tremendous courage and bravery of Ukrainians this year, I think that the entire world had a spell on us as a nation, in a good way, I mean. I think that we have become a good inspiration for everyone.”
He also touched upon the role that social media played in uniting the Ukrainian people and strengthening volunteer initiatives: “Thanks to the fact that Ukrainians are so self-organized, social media is an ideal environment for them. This environment creates huge opportunities to self-organize.”
“I think that we also need to praise many volunteers and activists who organized through social media many people, raised lots of money for charity and created a safe environment for those to whom the outside world was dangerous - I mean to those, who were in the occupation.”
Nataliya Gumenyuk, Co-Founder, Public Interest Journalism Lab, drew attention to the importance of accountability for the war crimes that Russia committed and keeps committing in Ukraine: “There is enormous evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity. If the perpetrators are not punished in this war with perfect evidence available, when everything is on the table basically and everything can be done fast, this means that the legal system does not exist and can be thrown away. That’s what at stake."
Video from the exhibition opening and discussion panels are available on the YouTube channel @PinchukFoundation
Photos are available at https://yes-ukraine.org/←Back to news list