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Ukraine’s human rights and civil society leaders appeal to world for urgent help

‘We need support and we need it now’ is the plea from Ukrainian organisations, which have issued six immediate demands to the West

James Cusick
James Cusick
28 February 2022, 4.19pm
Ukrainian organisations have asked the West for urgent help
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Sipa US/Alamy Live News

The leaders of 40 Ukrainian organisations, including media, civil liberties and pro-democracy groups, have urged the West to assist in their fight against Vladimir Putin’s military forces.

With promised international sanctions yet to take hold, the Ukrainian groups have issued a list of six immediate humanitarian and military demands.

Called ‘The Kyiv Declaration’, it starkly claims that “Ukraine cannot win with courage and conviction alone” and states that their country’s “way of life, democracy and freedom is being blown apart”. It adds: “We need support and we need it now.”

The declaration has been put together using encrypted apps that have, so far, evaded Russian eyes. With offices abandoned in favour of underground shelters and makeshift refuges, the declaration points to communication being difficult, but not impossible.

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Signatories include leaders from human rights groups, civil liberties, public interest journalism and women’s rights groups.

The declaration also includes an appeal to provide the technology and equipment that could help track and document what the signatories call “Putin’s war crimes”. Funding for human rights groups and the lawyers who will track any evidence is also among the core demands.

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Oleksandr Pavlichenko, the executive director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group for Human Rights, said: “Vladimir Putin and his henchmen believe they are above the law, that they can get away with this bloodshed because the world needs their gas and oil. We must prove them wrong. We must expose the truth. We must hold them to account in a court of law.”

The names of other signatory groups – such as Come Back Alive – point to the immediate impact of war.

The declaration’s demands go beyond humanitarian issues. Among the six demands is a call for “immediate defensive military aid – including lethal and non-lethal assistance”.

The request to provide safe zones inside Ukraine centres on protection for civilians from both air and ground attacks, and could help limit the now constant flow of refugees crossing the Ukrainian border into neighbouring states.

Safe zones were used in northern Syria following a 2019 agreement between Turkey and Russia. Similar protective no-fly zones were declared by the United States, Britain and France in Iraq to aid the Kurdish minority population after the Gulf War of 1991.

We ask for your help in defeating an autocratic dictator to defend not only Ukraine, but the whole democratic world

To meet the signatories’ demands in Ukraine would require airpower. This would point to direct NATO involvement, which has so far been resisted.

The call for military aid includes demands for air defence systems and anti-tank weaponry, pointing to fears of a lengthy urban war against an occupying Russian army.

Among the other requests are financial aid for humanitarian organisations, emergency medical equipment, including field hospitals and trauma supplies.

Olga Aivazovska, chair of Elections Watchdog Opora, said: “Now is the moment the world must demonstrate its support not only for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, but also for the values of democracy, human rights and freedom.

“With the Kyiv Declaration, we ask for your help in defeating an autocratic dictator to defend not only Ukraine, but the whole democratic world and the principles it is founded on.”

The declaration in full and its signatories:

The Kyiv Declaration

Vladimir Putin has unleashed unimaginable violence against Ukraine.

Our homes, schools and hospitals are being bombed. Our way of life, democracy and freedom are being blown apart.

We are fighting with everything we have, but we cannot win with courage and conviction alone. We need support. And we need it now.

We – a coalition of 40 Ukrainian civil society groups – are asking the international community to stand with Ukraine by demanding the international community take the following actions.

1) Establish safe zones in Ukraine

To provide sanctuary for civilians from both air and ground attacks and to help prevent a tide of refugees fleeing to Europe.

2) Provide immediate defensive military aid – including lethal and non-lethal assistance

We urgently need air defence systems and anti-tank weaponry to defend our homes and cities from Russia’s use of advanced military technology, including cruise missiles.

3) Implement crippling sanctions to undermine Putin’s war machine

Immediately impose the strongest possible sanctions on Russia’s central bank – with no exclusions. A total ban on all Russian banks using SWIFT with immediate effect. Europe and the US must sanction Russia's oil and gas sectors to cut off the revenues Putin uses to fund his war machine.

4) Provide immediate humanitarian aid

We need financial aid to fund local humanitarian organisations. We also require fuel, logistics support and emergency medical equipment, such as field hospitals, mobile clinics and trauma supplies.

5) Freeze the assets and revoke the visas of Putin’s cronies

Deny Putin and his cronies access to their cash and properties stashed in the West, revoke their visas and those of their families, and impose an immediate travel ban. Let them know that it will not be business as usual and that Putin cannot protect their interests.

6) Provide equipment to track war crimes immediately

Supply technology and support to groups recording Putin’s war crimes. Fund the human rights groups and lawyers who will ensure that Putin and his cronies are one day brought to justice.

This six-point appeal has been signed by 40 Ukrainian civil society organisations in Kyiv and other cities under siege including:

  1. Ukraine Crisis Media Centre, Nataliya Popovych
  2. Civic Network Opora, Olga Aivazovska
  3. Ukrainian Helsinki Group for Human Rights, Oleksandr Pavlichenko
  4. Plast, Natalia Kolesnyk
  5. Public Interest Journalism Lab, Natalia Gumeniuk
  6. ZMINA Centre for Human Rights, Tetyana Pechonchyk
  7. Ukrainian Institute London, Olesya Khomeychuk
  8. Vostok SOS, Kostiantyn Reutskyi
  9. ISAR Yednannia, Volodymyr Sheyhus
  10. StopFake, Yevhen Fedchenko
  11. Ukrainian Centre for Independent Policy Research, Yuliya Tyshchenko
  12. Ukrainian Catholic University, Fr. Dr Bohdan Prach
  13. Centre for Civil Liberties, Oleksandra Matviichuk
  14. Global Ukraine, Violeta Moskalu
  15. DixyGroup, Olena Pavlenko
  16. Vox Ukraine, Svitlana Slipchenko
  17. Izolyatsia Platform for Cultural Initiatives, Mykhailo Glubokyi
  18. Hromadske TV, Yuliia Fediv
  19. Detector Media, Galyna Petrenko
  20. European Experts Association, Maria Avdeeva
  21. Come Back Alive, Taras Chmut
  22. Women’s Perspectives, Lyubov Maksymovych
  23. PEN Ukraine, Tetyana Teren
  24. Agency for Legislative Initiatives, Svitlana Matviienko
  25. Ukraine Analytica, Hanna Shelest
  26. Smoloskyp Publishers, Rostyslav Shemkiv
  27. Kyiv Security Forum, Danylo Lubkivsky
  28. ProMova, Yevhen Hlibovytsky
  29. Vaad of Ukraine, Josef Zissels
  30. Democracy Development Initiative, Ksenia Kosheleva
  31. Euromaidan SOS, Veronika Puhach
  32. Institute of Mass Information, Oksana Romaniuk
  33. Election Council UA, Yevhen Bystrytsky
  34. Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy, National Academy of Science of Ukraine, prof. Ihor Kozlovskyi
  35. Ostroh Academy, prof. Andrii Smyrnov
  36. Centre for Perspective Initiatives and Studies, Mykhailo Rudenko
  37. Iskra Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, Irena Remestwenski
  38. Regional Rada of Ukrainians in Crimea, Andriy Ivanets
  39. Kyiv Mohyla Academy, prof. Konstantin Sigov
  40. Institute of Information Security, Artem Bidenko

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