It is horrifying to wake up at 5 am from missile explosions which makes all your city feel like a volcano. It is horrifying to see combat on the streets of your city and see missiles targeting residential buildings. It is horrifying to be on a walk with you children and hear explosions, as if a thousand of terrorists had entered your yard. It is horrifying to count the dead and look into their eyes in photos.
Ukraine has been living with war for eight years in Donbas. The war has left scars which are impossible to erase. Ukrainians spent eight years watching the news every day and hearing the dead called by name. So many Ukrainians had someone in a family photo who had been taken by the war. So many Ukrainians also had wounds to their body or soul caused by the war.
But now this war is everywhere. It is in Sumy, Kherson, Chornobyl, Mariupol, and in Kyiv. It is in Kyiv courtyards, on children’s playgrounds. Orphanages and residential buildings have become targets for the Russian invasion army.
This war was predictable, but it came unexpectedly. It is like a horrible nightmare, but it is the most real thing of all things real.
Ukrainians have always been strong and will be strong. Our people have survived the fiercest challenges, and we are a nation that is used to surmounting difficulties. It has developed and thrived despite all the tragedies it suffered in the 20th century: destruction by an artificial famine (Holodomor), millions exterminated, the intelligentsia executed, the destruction of our language and culture. These crimes were committed by authoritarian Russia, under different masks and in different forms, with its “partners” and collaborators. Therefore, Russia’s war against Ukraine today is not new for us.
We stood firm at that time and we will stand firm now. We have survived despite all these tragic events, and we will be victorious today.
But we need help. Putin is repeating what Europe last saw in 1939. Today Ukraine is defending itself. It is defending the values of human rights and fundamental freedoms, of democracy and resistance against tyranny. This is an eternal fight which has stretched from the Greek city states to the Italian city-republics, from the values of the French Revolution to the anti-Nazi resistance, from the Prague Spring and Poland’s “Solidarity” to the Ukrainian dissident movement.
Today we are experiencing a new, perhaps decisive battle between freedom and tyranny, between humanism and political sadism. Ukrainians are fighting with arms in their hands, and the world must support them, shoulder to shoulder.
There are many things which the world can do now. First, it needs to impose harsher sanctions against Russia, and significantly hit the Russian energy, banking, and defense sectors. It must impose a trade embargo on Russia and cut Russia off from the SWIFT international payment system, as well as substantially limit its capacity to sell its gas and oil to fill its military budgets. Secondly, Russia must be cut off from all international fora. Thirdly, Ukraine needs military support: air defense systems and protection against Russian missiles and bombings. The world must ensure a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Russia believes that it is waging the war against the U.S. and NATO in Ukraine, and NATO must therefore respond. Fourth, Ukraine needs economic support, as the country is suffering catastrophic economic loss. Our country must emerge stronger from this war.
One more thing: here are many people in the world today who may be telling themselves, ‘We are not Ukrainians, therefore Russian tanks will not reach us. Putin will stop at the Polish border”. This is an illusion. Many Ukrainains also thought that a war with their “brotherly people” was impossible. But it started in 2014. The first invasion happened because we were not ready for it psychologically. The cowards in the Kremlin used the moment when Ukraine was mourning the deaths of itsHeavenly Hundred Heroes in February 2014, during the Revolution of Dignity. At that moment, Russia occupied Crimea. Today, the Kremlin has decided to go further because it felt that Europe was not ready for resistance. But can Europe, and the whole world, accept the fact that its indecisiveness will bring not hundreds but thousands of dead – the Heavenly Thousands?
We must stop Putin immediately! We must stop the war immediately! We must annihilate the criminal Putin regime – this new and uglier version of totalitarian horror. Like gangrene, it threatens to spread to the body of the whole world.
We previously asked for support for Ukraine. Today we are saying: support yourself! Support the world order that stands between us and evil becoming the law of our lives.
Written by “1st December Initiative Group”, a group of Ukrainian human rights defenders and intellectuals, including dissidents who fought against totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union
The “1st December Initiative Group” is a group by prominent Ukrainian human rights defenders and intellectuals. It was created on 1st December, 2011, on the 20th anniversary of referendum for Ukraine’s independence in 1991. At that time, it addressed Ukrainian society with the “The Charter of Free People”, an influential document defending human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as Ukraine’s democracy. Since then, the Group has been active in defending Ukrainian sovereignty, territorial integrity and democracy.