GLOBSEC Brussels held a lunch-briefing, on Wednesday the 20th of April, with 3 Ukrainian Politicians:
- Ms Olena Khomenko (Party: Servant of the People, Ukraine MP),
- Ms Maria Mezentseva (Party: Servant of the People, Ukraine MP),
- Mr Ivan Fedorov (Mayor of Melitopol)
As they are currently touring across the EU starting in Italy, they stopped by in Brussels to share their stories and ask for support with EU and Belgian institutions. Earlier this month, they visited Slovakia, hosted by GLOBSEC where they noted i.a. that Slovakia is in the top three central European countries in terms of military support to Ukraine. Their diplomatic mission will proceed with visits to the Netherlands and Germany.
Their mission is to deliver a clear and truthful picture in the EU of what is happening in Ukraine now. Ivan Fedorov, the Mayor of Melitopol who had been previously kidnapped by Russia until the Ukrainian side exchanged him in a prisoners’ swap, described how dangerous the situation in many Ukrainian cities and specifically in Melitopol is today.
Russian soldiers’ strategies include setting up a pro-Russian puppet mayor that was never supported by the electorate and deploying their propaganda by broadcasting Russian federal TV channels and forcing changes around Russian propaganda in the school curriculum. Because of the low support for Russians among local people in the region, they kidnap local activists to intensify an informational vacuum and spread panic.
The city of Melitopol, once inhabited by 150 000 people, today has 70 000 left, with 6000 still wishing to evacuate. The Russians don’t let that happen. In another city, Mariupol, which Russia wanted to subdue violently and completely, the Russian invaders met strong resistance from the army and the Azov Battallion and the city turned now into the center of the battlefield.
As Maria Mezentseva and Olena Khomenko pointed out, the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine are tremendous. The GDP fell by 52% and the unemployment rate amounts now to roughly 50%. Although the previous weeks bring more hope, as finally, a substantial help in terms of heavy weapons is arriving, it remains crucial to provide lethal as well as non-lethal aid to Ukraine to be able to defeat Russia. This would strategically improve Ukraine’s position during peace negotiations in the future.
Ultimately, even during the war, Ukraine is committed to European values. 86% of Ukrainians support the future membership of Ukraine in the EU. If we look back, despite the previous crises in Ukrainian governance, 90 European laws were passed only during the previous year and 70% of the Association Agreement was fulfilled in Ukraine. And this process still goes on during the war.
This lunch briefing was not only an exchange of detailed information on the current situation in Ukraine but it was also a personal story, brought to the EU’s capital by these 3 Ukrainian people, a story that is often lost behind numbers and statistics.