Ukrainian leaders call on the world, and especially Europe, to act now to begin rebuilding Ukraine

24 May 2020, Davos, Switzerland: Today, a discussion “How to return after suffering” with Ivan Fedorov, Mayor of Melitopol, Anatolii Fedoruk, Mayor of Bucha, Vadym Boichenko, Mayor of Mariupol, Oleksiy Kuleba, Head of the Kyiv Regional State Administration, and Eugene Finkel, Associate Professor, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, was held in the Russian War Crimes House in Davos. Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia (2016-2021), moderated the event. 

Open 22-26 May, the Russian War Crimes House is organized by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation and the PinchukArtCentre, in partnership with the Office of the President of Ukraine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers.

“We need to act today, we don’t need to think or delay, we need to act” was the main plea from the discussion.

Speaking at the event, Ivan Fedorov, Mayor of Melitopol, said: “It has been three months today since the invasion of our country. On that day we started to see the letter Z and wondered what it meant, we didn’t understand it. We have now come to understand that it is means Zombie. We know the people who have invaded our land are Zombies, because they understand nothing. They do not understand that Ukraine is a separate country, that we have our own identity, our own culture. In World War II, fascism was at our doorstep, today we have zombies. We won that war, we will win this one. 

Since 2014, relationships with Russians have become impossible. The last eight years changed everything, including the mindset of our people. Our citizens have seen what the Russians have done in Crimea and Donbass. Since we cannot build relationships with killers, we cannot build a future with Russia and Russian aggressors. They must first stop killing our children, women and civilians.”

Vadym Boichenko, Mayor of Mariupol, said: “When the Russians invaded three months ago, they said they did it to liberate our people. Our city has specific features – many citizens speak Russian, we have a rich history with Russia but these people have destroyed all aspects of our peace including schools, churches and hospitals. During World War II the Nazis killed 10,000 citizens of Mariupol, now consider that within two months the Russians have killed 20,000 of our people. They have ruined a modern European city that was becoming ever more western and liberated. But, I am convinced that good continues to live. For the sake of our children and people we must keep living.”

Anatolii Fedoruk, Mayor of Bucha, added: “We didn’t have big military actions on the first day of occupation, but still Russia started deliberately targeting vital infrastructure. We appreciate foreign aid but do not want to live off it in the future. We need to implement state programmes to become stronger. We have to admit that our northern neighbours won’t disappear even after our big victory. We need our East to be strong and uphold the values of Ukraine. The challenges that Ukraine, the EU and democracy are facing today, need to be faced together. 

Oleksiy Kuleba, Head of the Kyiv Regional State Administration, said: “Today we need to start reconstructing our towns, we don’t want to just restore. We will leap ahead in the development of our country, and for those that suffered we will not only reconstruct, we will take a leap forward. Our people have survived the Third World War, being fought on Ukrainian territory, and are still surviving. For them to survive we need to understand the reasons for our suffering. You (the international community) are our partners, and you must help us to understand how we can make this leap forward and why citizens and children suffered. 

In the words of president, we need to act today, we don’t need to think or delay, we need to act. We stretch our hand to you so we can demonstrate our efficiency. When we have specific actions from both sides, it will happen much faster.”

The Mayor of Mariupol Vadym Boichenko concluded: “We don’t have to delay our victory. We saw in 2014 what happens when we delay. It will take thousands of lives and we need to fight for our lives. We need to be a modern city in modern European country. How many more Mariupols, Buchas and Melitopols will it take before we stop financing the enemy? We must get behind this so Ukraine wins, and Europe wins.” 

TO access pictures of the panel discussion, please use this link.

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