Victor Pinchuk Foundation and YES held discussion “Democracy, Corruption, Unity — Ukrainian Realities vs. Appearances” during the YES meeting in Kyiv “Two Years — Stay in the Fight”

25 February 2024

On 24 February 2024, the Victor Pinchuk Foundation and Yalta European Strategy (YES) held a discussion “Democracy, Corruption, Unity — Ukrainian Realities vs. Appearances” on the occasion of the YES meeting in Kyiv “Two Years — Stay in the Fight” dedicated to the second anniversary of Ukraine's resistance to the full-scale invasion of Russia. Speakers discussed Ukraine’s fight for life, freedom and the rules-based order as well as how to aid Ukrainians’ victory in this fight for us all.

Host of the panel discussion, Nataliya Gumenyuk, Ukrainian journalist, Founder of Public Interest Journalism Lab and The Reckoning Project, was joined by Metropolitan Epiphanius, Head, Orthodox Church of Ukraine; Gustaf Göthberg, Member of Parliament, Parliament of the Kingdom of Sweden and Oleksandra Matviichuk, Nobel Prize Winner; Head of the Board, Center for Civil Liberties.

Nataliya Gumenyuk began the discussion by posing a question, asking, “I want to start with democracy and unity. Unfortunately, it feels sometimes that democracy is used as an excuse not to act — saying ‘We’re very slow, our parliaments are chaotic because we are democracies’. But this war is about democracy against autocracy. I want to think about democracy differently — as our strength. If Ukraine had not been a democracy would you all be here in this room as Ukrainian allies? Maybe some, but the majority probably not. Same for the Ukrainian Army, if the Army had not been reformed in 2014, who knows whether the Ukrainian army would pursue the fight?

Where do you see the strengths of the Ukrainian democracy, the concerns and also the red lines? The time for emotional unity is over, it's time for pragmatic unity, how do we keep it?”

Metropolitan Epiphanius was the first to answer the question, saying, “If we discuss democracy today we discuss certain values. We all would like to live in a democratic country where we have guaranteed freedoms and justice, the gift of freedom is a great gift from God and we have to preserve it and multiply it and pass it on to posterity. The Church is inseparable from civil society — in such difficult circumstances we live through the same hardships and suffering as all Ukrainians. But we are sure Ukraine will overcome.”

He went on to say, “Democracy requires freedoms of faith. Ukraine is the country, in which the idea of freedom of faith is the broadest and biggest. The Russian Federation is killing our priests and members of our clergy — more than 10 priests of our denomination have been killed. Many have been detained and deported to Georgia. That’s their attitude to our faith and other faiths.”

Considering the same question, Oleksandra Matviichuk said, “We are approaching the 2nd anniversary of large-scale invasion in very critical conditions. People in Ukraine are fighting for freedom and human dignity and have been for ten years already. Russia is killing our people, burning our grain, destroying our cities.

It is an illusion to say war is unifying, war is а poison. Our task now is to build bridges between different groups and build unity in this genocidal war. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided.

We must remember, that in this war against Russia, we are fighting not only for our territory but also for our democratic choice to build a country where the rights of everybody are protected, the government is accountable, the judiciary is independent and the police do not beat students who are peacefully protesting.”

“Countries that have undertaken democratisation in peacetime know it takes enormous efforts and enormous energy. But we are the first country and future EU member who has to achieve such democratisation in war. It’s difficult but I am optimistic for the future. Every survey we see confirms that Ukrainians always put freedom in the first place”, added Oleksandra Matviichuk.

Responding to Nataliya Gumenyuk’s question about how Sweden, which is known for being a very strong democracy, feels about supporting Ukraine, Gustaf Göthberg, Member of Parliament, Parliament of the Kingdom of Sweden, said, “There is no discussion in Sweden about this. No disagreement — we all believe that we should support Ukraine to victory, this is important, not just for as long as it takes, but until Ukraine wins the war. The Swedish Defence Minister will be here in a few minutes and recently announced an aid package of $683mn, the opposition is preparing a contra package to the government package which will be bigger. In Sweden, politicians are competing with each other to do more to support Ukraine!

Military support must increase, and to continue the support for this we need to broaden the unity beyond the political class. Bring all Swedish mayors to meet Ukrainian mayors — elaborate on how we can deepen development and cooperation between our countries. Connect what is happening here to what is happening in Belarus, inside Russia and make it clear not only to the political class but also to members of the whole of society.”

Photos are available here

Video is available at the Victor Pinchuk Foundation YouTube channel

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Muhammad Yunus
Muhammad Yunus
Nobel Peace Prize Winner, 2006; Founder, Grameen Bank; Chairman, Yunus Centre , 9th YES Annual Meeting, 2012
«Poverty is not created by the poor. Poverty is externally imposed on them. Poverty is created by the system that we built…Poverty should be in a museum, not in human society»