Thursday, February 22, 2024

Ambassador Markarova: We Are Defending Democracy and Freedom, That Is Why Russia Attacked Us

Washington, DC – At a press conference organized by the National Press Club’s Headliners team, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova said that although today (March 15) is the 20th day of the brutal attack on Ukraine, it is actually the eighth year of war because Russia attacked us in 2014. “We are at war. Russia is at war with us for the past eight years. But during the past 10 to 20 days, this war turned into a full-scale genocide of Ukrainian people,” said Markarova.

Ambassador Markarova thanked journalists around the world, especially those in Ukraine today, for “risking their lives to tell the world the truth, something that Ukraine desperately needs,” so that the world understands the reality of what is happening in every city and village in Ukraine right now, and acts fast and decisively. 

“They [Russians] are targeting civilians. They’re killing children, pregnant women. They are killing the elderly. This is a clear case of genocide,” said Markarova. She spoke of text messages from people in Ukraine reassuring her of their safety and asking to ensure that they have weapons to continue fighting. “Ukraine is defending our homes with the funds in Ukraine, but we are also defending Europe, and we are defending democracy, and we’re defending freedom because this is the only reason why Russia attacked us,” said Markarova. She said the only risk from Ukraine to Russia is that Ukrainians have chosen to be European, democratic, and free. “And if that is something that scares the Russian Federation, then none of us are safe.” 

Borys Gudziak, the Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, said that Ukraine has won this war morally, and the positive thing in this tragedy is that the world has come together. “I used to be Bishop in Paris for seven years, and I saw before my eyes how Brexit, how other fissures were breaking apart the European community. There is new unity, new purpose in the European Union because of the witness of Ukrainians who are giving their life for their friends.”  

The Archbishop said that it is crucial for people from Indonesia, Pakistan, and Arab countries to understand that Ukrainians are dying for the freedom of religion of Muslims who are comfortable in Ukraine. “There’s a Jewish president. Most people can’t fathom that 70 percent of Ukrainians voted for a Jewish candidate. There is great fraternal unity and love in this country. Something that those who drink the Russian Kool-Aid don’t understand.” The main reason Ukraine is being attacked is that it is a democracy. It has the disease of freedom of the press, freedom of religion, elections, and a vital civic society, said the Archbishop. “All of this is a dangerous virus for autocracy. For oligarchs and kleptocracy and for what Putin stands for.” 

Although the world is united in its support of Ukraine, and there has been a massive global humanitarian response, Archbishop Gudziak said that defensive aid is also critically needed. “What good is it if you feed the stomachs of these children, these women, these people in cities if their brains are going to be blown out, if their buildings, their apartment buildings are going to be rendered into rubble? There needs to be massive defensive and massive humanitarian aid.” 

The Archbishop called out the Russian Orthodox Church leadership’s support for President Putin’s war. “It stands for this war. It stands against the defense of innocence. The most negative example for the Russian population. This needs to be named. This needs to be called out.”

Ambassador Markarova commented that had the response been decisive in 2014, Ukraine would not be in this situation today, but the challenges of today need to be answered by today’s decisions. Ukraine’s Armed Forces, National Guard, border guards, and territorial defense are fiercely defending every inch of Ukrainian territory, despite being attacked by a much larger army. But they require urgent support and the supply of weapons that bolster their air defense against Russia. “When they saw that they cannot achieve anything on the ground – I just have to remind you that at the beginning, they said that Kyiv would fall in 20 hours – they resorted to terrorism. We need urgent support to protect Ukraine from this brutal attack they are doing from the air.” 

Archbishop Gudiziak said that in addition to the need for armored ambulances, medicine, medical supplies, and food and clothing, it’s also important to realize that this is a hybrid war that requires the countering of misinformation. Referring to George Bush calling Putin a straightforward and a trustworthy man in 2000; Barack Obama ridiculing Mitt Romney in 2012 when he said that Russia was the greatest geopolitical challenge for the United States; and Trump calling Putin’s invasion of Ukraine “an act of genius,” the Archbishop said that such naive, ignorant or willfully negative stances are influencers. It’s critical to show the ground reality to counter the “purveyors of misinformation.” “The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergei Lavrov, in Istanbul said they did not invade. That is how blatant the lie is.”

Ambassador Markarova said that we are now living in a 1939 moment. It is not enough just to help Ukraine fight the war on its territory because it is not only about Ukraine; Putin wants to redraw the borders and the security structure in Europe. All of those who believe in democracy “have to act faster, unite, and we have to give a decisive response. People in 1939 failed to do so, and we cannot afford to do it this time.” 

Responding to a question on whether she saw Russia as being willing to engage in diplomacy and how she sees the end of the war, Ambassador Markarova said that Putin started this invasion. He is the one person who has to stop it. “It’s very black and white. It’s Russia that crossed our border. It’s Russia that attacked our country. It’s Russia that is shelling our cities and killing our civilians.” Since the beginning, President Zelenskyy has been open to any possibility to negotiate, but good faith negotiations require a ceasefire, said Markarova. “We have a saying in Ukraine that if Russia stops shooting, the war will stop. If Ukraine stops shooting today, our country will disappear. So it’s totally up to Russia.” 

Author profile
Poonam Sharma

Poonam is a multi-media journalist, and Founder and Editor of Global Strat View. She was the Managing Editor of India America Today (IAT) for seven years, and launched its print edition in 2019 with IAT's Founder and Editor, the late Tejinder Singh.

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