Former Soviet political prisoners call on Holland to say yes to Ukraine’s European future
More than eighty former political prisoners from ex-Soviet republics have appealed to the people of the Netherlands to vote in favour of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. This, they stress, will help Ukraine make the transformation from “survival to self-expression, from authoritarian norms to democratic values”. The signatories point out how difficult this is “under conditions of acute geopolitical threat from Russia”, reflected both in Russia’s military aggression and a virulent propaganda drive.
The authors note that Ukrainians have twice – in 2004, and then during Euromaidan - strongly indicated their wish to integrate into Europe.
They ask why the people of the Netherlands have any doubts, while acknowledging that one of the answers lies with Ukraine itself. It is much easier to fight for values, than to live in accordance with them, they note. This is a problem, they recognize, but ask for time. It would be a shame if the Dutch ‘no’ deprived them of this chance.
The authors also, however, focus on reasons within Europe itself, a Europe which is facing attempts by the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin to push the imperial idea of a strong Russia. Putin, they stress, is in fact destroying Russia’s greatness through his reliance on aggression, military occupation of other countries, violations of the international order, disinformation and hate speech.
Ukraine cannot compete with Russia’s propaganda capabilities and is the victim of lies and false narrative.
“In this sense, Ukraine depends on you, on your ability to distinguish truth from lie. However, at stake is not only the security of Ukraine. Failure to decode the propaganda construction of Putin regime seriously undermines the security of Europe in its entirety. Only the blind cannot see how great the danger is today.”
As former political prisoners of the Soviet regime, they paid for their commitment to European values with their freedom. Some paid with their lives.
This letter has been signed by 45 Ukrainians including Mustafa Dzhemiliev who spent 15 years in the camps and Myroslav Marynovych, one of the founding members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group who paid for his courage with a 10 year sentence. The signatories also include 23 Russian former political prisoners, 6 Lithuanians, 3 Georgians, 2 Armenians, one Estonian and one Belarusian. Three former Polish political prisoners have also added their voice including the well-known dissident leader Adam Michnik.
The address from so many former political prisoners comes just weeks after Ukrainian Jewish leaders addressed a movingin which they asked the people of the Netherlands to give their country the chance to really break with the past.
That appeal was important because of the major propaganda campaign waged by Russia to try to convince the world that both Euromaidan and today’s Ukraine are the work of far-right anti-Semitic ‘fascists’. Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to justify Russia’s invasion of Crimea bythat this was a reaction to the "rampage of reactionary, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces" in Kyiv.
The Jewish community in Ukraine actively condemned such distortions then and it again sets the record straight in this appeal to the people of the Netherlands.
“Ukraine, together with its Jewish community, which is one of the largest in Europe, is living through one of the most dramatic moments in its history. For the first time in hundreds of years of co-existence in this multinational land, the country has gained the chance to create a political nation. This chance is the result of the victory of civil society, a victory in which Ukrainian Jews played a major role, over the authoritarian and corrupt regime of ex-President Yanukovych.
On April 6, the Dutch population are voting in a referendum to decide whether to support the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine or not. Even though the referendum is not binding, the Dutch government has indicated it will abide by the outcome.
The referendum, while ostensibly only on the issue of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, has wider significance. A ‘no’ vote would be a major propaganda boost to Russia and all Euro-sceptics, including in the United Kingdom which has its own referendum on whether to stay in the EU in late June this year.
It is very noticeable that Russia is supporting European politicians and parties which are against the EU. Most, like Le Pen’s National Front, are right-wing or far-right and strongly anti-migrant. The majority of these parties, including those in the UK favouring ‘brexit’ (leaving the EU) also tend to take a strong pro-Kremlin line, including over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in Ukraine.
The appeal in full
Appeal to the Dutch population
March 11, 2016
At the end of the 1990s, the famous European diplomat Romano Prodi said: "We expect Ukraine to give us a clear signal of where it wants to be - with EU or with Russia. We will respect any decision".
Since then, twice, in 2004 and in 2013-14, Ukraine gave strong signals of its desire to integrate into Europe. Those signals were so strong, that they raised tough questions about the identity of Europe itself and its values.
Why does The Netherlands then doubt today?
One of the reasons can be found in Ukraine itself. It turned out that to fight for the values is much easier than to live in accordance with them. Probably everyone knows it from his own experience. To move the focus from survival to self-expression, from authoritarian norms to democratic values, under conditions of acute geopolitical threat from Russia is difficult. Europe is beginning to experience similar difficulties, while facing the challenge of a stream of refugees.
So, Ukraine needs time, and it would be a shame if it would be deprived of the chance to acquire European values with a Dutch "No".
The second reason is related to you, to the citizens of the European Community, and to your ability to find the truth. In the present circumstances, this task has at least three aspects.
The Putin regime has made its choice and is trying to restore the imperial idea of a strong Russia. Russia has indeed greatness and strength, but Putin is looking for it in the wrong place. Actually he is destroying Russia’s greatness, because he relies on aggression, military occupation of other countries, violations of the international order, disinformation and hate speech. Therefore Putin is not Russia, and neither were Brezhnev, Stalin and Lenin before him.
Ukraine is not able to compete with the propaganda capacities of Russia, and therefore inevitably becomes a victim of false interpretations. In this sense, Ukraine depends on you, on your ability to distinguish truth from lie. However, at stake is not only the security of Ukraine. Failure to decode the propaganda construction of Putin regime seriously undermines the security of Europe in its entirety. Only the blind cannot see how great the danger is today.
We, former political prisoners of the communist concentration camps, already at an early age believed in European values and paid for them with our freedom, and some of us with their lives. Today we are concerned about the national selfishness and everyday pragmatism that are slowly eroding the basic values of European civilization.
Without restoring one’s ability to distinguish truth from deceit, it becomes impossible to distinguish good from evil.
We, fighters against Communist regimes, we know that it is impossible to hide from evil in self-isolation. Evil will reach you everywhere and will make you choose: either to surrender to evil, or to stop it.
To a certain degree this is the choice that stands before you during the upcoming referendum.
(name, country of origin and current residence if different, number of years in imprisonment)
Antoniuk Zinovy (Ukraine – 11 years)
Arutyunyan Vardan (Armenia – 8 years)
Ayrikyan Paruyr (Armenia – 17 years)
Babich Sergey (Ukraine – 27, 5 years)
Bolonkin Alexander (Russia/USA – 15 years)
Brodsky Vladimir (Russia/Israel – 1, 5 years)
Buival Valery (Belarus)
Bukovsky Vladimir (Russia/Great Britain - 12 years)
Cherniavskaya-Naboka Inna (Ukraine – 3 years)
Chornomaz Bogdan (Ukraine – 3 years)
Davydov Viktor (Russia – 4 years)
Dudaeva Alla (Russia – Sweden)
Dzabiradze Vahtan (Georgia – 3, 5 years)
Dzhemilev Mustafa (Ukraine – 15 years)
Geiko (Matusevich) Olga (Ukraine – 6 years)
Genke Nikolai (Russia – 4 years)
Glebovich Petr (Poland)
Gluzman Semyon (Ukraine – 10 years)
Gorbal Mykola (Ukraine – 16 years)
Gorin Bogdan (Ukraine – 3 years)
Gorin Olga (Ukraine – 6 years)
Gviniashvili Tariel (Georgia – 4 years)
Idiogov Ahiad (Russia/France)
Ivlyushkin Nikolai (Russia- 8 years)
Kadyrov Sinaver (Ukraine – 3 years)
Kalynets Igor (Ukraine - 9 years)
Karavansky Sviatoslav (Ukraine/USA – 31 years)
Khmara Stepan (Ukraine – 7 years)
Khmelevskaya Yadviga (Poland)
Kravchenko Valeriy (Ukraine – 4 years)
Kudyukin Pavel (Russia - 1 year)
Kuksa Victor (Ukraine – 2 years)
Kulchynsky Mykola (Ukraine – 3 years)
Kutsenko Grigory (Ukraine – 4 years)
Kuznetsov Eduard (Russia/Israel – 14 years)
Lifshits Vladimir (Russia/Israel – 1 year)
Lokhvitskaya Larisa (Ukraine – 3 years)
Lukyanenko Levko (Ukraine – 27 years)
Makowiychuk Gregory (Ukraine – 3 years)
Manannikov Aleksei (Russia – 3 years)
Marmus Mykola (Ukraine – 8 years)
Marmus Vladimir (Ukraine – 9 years)
Marynovych Myroslav (Ukraine – 10 years)
Matusevich Mykola (Ukraine – 10 years)
Matviyuk Kuzma (Ukraine – 4 years)
Mazur Dmytro (Ukraine – 9 years)
Michalko Myhaylo (Ukraine – 3 years)
Mikhnik Adam (Poland – 5 years)
Mikitko Jaromir (Ukraine – 5 years)
Miliyavski Leonid (Ukraine – 3 years)
Niklus Mart (Estonia – 16 years)
Orlov Yuri (Russia – 7 years)
Ovsienko Vasyl (Ukraine – 13, 5 years)
Pavlov Vadim (Ukraine – 3 years)
Pečeliūnas Saulius (Lithuania – 7 years)
Podrabinek Alexander (Russia – 5, 5 years)
Podrabinek Kirill (Russia – 5, 5 years)
Popadyuk Zoryan (Ukraine – 15 years)
Popov Kirill (Russia – 1.5 years)
Povilionis Vidmantas (Lithuania – 2 years)
Protsenko Pavel (Russia – 8 months)
Reznikov Alexey (Ukraine – 7 years)
Rivkin Michael (Russia/Israel – 5 years)
Rudenko Raisa (Ukraine – 6, 5 years)
Rusin Ivan (Ukraine/USA – 7 years)
Sadunaite Nijole (Lithuania – 6 years)
Senkiv Vladimir (Ukraine - 7 years)
Shevchenko Oles (Ukraine – 7 years)
Skobov Alexander (Russia – 7, 5 years)
Slobodyan Mykola (Ukraine – 5 years)
Smirnov Alexey (Russia – 5 years)
Smogytel Vadim (Ukraine – 3 years)
Sofyanik Oleg (Ukraine – 2 years)
Soselia Guram (Georgia)
Superfin Gabriel (Ukraine/Germany, 7 years)
Terleckas Antanas (Lithuania – 13 years)
Timofeev Lev (Russia – 2 years)
Tuckus Andrius (Lithuania)
Vilkas Leonardas (Lithuania)
Virchenko Nina (Ukraine - 6 years)
Yakubivsky Myhaylo (Ukraine – 1 year)
Zissels Joseph (Ukraine – 6 years)