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Victor Pinchuk Foundation hosts discussion “Will 2023 be the Year of Liberation?” on the occasion of WEF

On 18 January 2023, Victor Pinchuk Foundation held in Davos (Switzerland) the discussion “Will 2023 be the Year of Liberation?”. The event was held as part of the UKRAINE IS YOU project, organized jointly with PinchukArtCentre and in cooperation with the Office of the President of Ukraine. The project brings together global thinkers, experts and people from on the ground in Ukraine to discuss the assault on the country, Russian war crimes and also the hope and empowerment of defending freedom and independence.

Among the participants of the discussion were Radosław Sikorski, Poland’s Former Defence Minister (2005-2007), Foreign Minister (2007-2014) and Parliament Speaker (2014-2015); Bob Seely, Member of Parliament, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ukraine, House of Commons, UK; political analyst Yevhen Hlibovtsky; Anna Mischenko, Director, Kyiv School of Public Administration named after Serhiy Nizhnyy. Foreign Affairs editor-in-chief Daniel Kurtz-Phelan moderated the event.

Opening the discussion, Daniel Kurtz-Phelan said: “In many ways this has been a year of remarkable military success and societal success for Ukraine.”

Taking the floor, Radosław Sikorski said: “Wars are not won or lost by tactical engagements. Wars are won by logistics and manufacturing capacities. And, I think, it’s fair to say, that if the USA and Europe hadn’t helped Ukraine, it might have fallen. This war is being sustained both financially and in military terms thanks to Ukraine’s friends and allies. Given that, Putin still thinks he can win. It’s really crucial to speed up [arms] deliveries now to play not for a draw, but for Ukraine’s victory. And by winning I mean the restoration of Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.”

He also stressed: “This is the largest Western assistance to any country in history… This level of support, I think it’s safe to assume, will not be increased, but we need to sustain it, and we need to translate it into the right kind of equipment.”

Radosław Sikorski also raised the issue of Belarus’s role in the war: “We are not doing enough to draw Russian forces away from Ukraine. We should tell [Belarusian ruler Alexander] Lukashenko, at least as a threat: “If you open a northern front to Ukraine, we will open a northern front to you”, and let him worry about it.”

Bob Seely also commented on Russia’s current strategy in Ukraine, saying that it consists of three components: trying to hold the front line, aiming to trash Ukrainians’ willingness to fight and striving to undermine Western support to Ukraine. “Russia wins unless it loses - that’s the crucial point here. The Ukrainians have to break these Russian lines, because if we are still here two years from now, the world will start giving up, Ukrainians may start giving up,” he opined.

Speaking about the projected supplies of Challenger and Leopard tanks, Bob Seely suggested that the next two weeks of discussions about that issue would be critical for the situation on the battlefield: “We are going to have a critical two weeks. If the Germans don’t allow the re-export of Leopard tanks…if those 300 units of weapons don’t arrive [in Ukraine], then it’s difficult to understand how Ukraine will have the kit to break Russian lines. And unless Ukraine wins on the battlefield, Putin will eventually win, because strategic patience holds out.”

Commenting on Ukrainians’ resilience in the face of Russia’s aggression, Yevhen Hlibovytskyy said: “It's crucial for us to end this war in 2023, and the reason for that is that we don’t want to test the sustainability of Ukraine’s resilience. Being resilient is absolutely incredible, but it’s not an endless thing.”

“It’s important that we don’t go into another winter of testing infrastructure and human suffering. I think it’s really important that each party pressurizes their respective governments so that Ukraine gets enough to finish the military conflict in 2023. Going beyond there, we will go into uncharted waters and various scenarios are possible there,” he added.

Anna Mischenko said: “What happened to us this year completely reshaped Ukrainians’ mindset. This is not only the national identity issue, but also the issue of how to survive today. I believe that besides a military victory, we also need a new victory - a new system and new state managers, since Ukraine will be the outpost of European ideas and values from now on.”

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