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KHRPG | 14Mar2016 | Halya Coynash,  Appeal
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 moving appeal
in 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 by claiming
that 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
On April 6, 2016, the Dutch population are voting in a referendum to
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
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)