Oleksandra Matviichuk, Nobel Peace Prize 2022: “Putin did not start the invasion of Ukraine out of fear of NATO, but because he fears freedom”

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In an interview with Infobae, the lawyer and director of the Center for Civil Liberties in kyiv referred to the Russian attack and assured that “it is not a war between two states but a conflict over two systems: democracy and authoritarianism”. “Ukraine is just the window”, he sentenced, with more than 21 thousand crimes registered so far

Oleksandra Matviichuk, Nobel Peace Prize 2022: “Putin did not start the invasion of Ukraine out of fear of NATO, but because he fears freedom”

By

Inés Ehulech

Oleksandra Matviichuk, Nobel Peace Prize 2022: “Putin did not start the invasion" ;n to Ukraine for fear of NATO, but because he fears freedom”

Oleksandra Matviichuk, winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize and director of the Center for Civil Liberties (Maximiliano Luna)

The Ukrainian Association of Culture “Prosvita” brings together representative cultural elements of the country's history and was the perfect setting for an exclusive Infobae interview with the lawyer and human rights activist, Oleksandra Matviichuk. Next to his Center for Civil Liberties -based in Kiev- Matviichuk was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year thanks to her hard work to achieve justice for the violated voices of her country.

The Center began its work in 2007 and has been studying and collecting evidence of human rights violations ever since, with a special focus on the 2014 protests prior to the annexation of Crimea to Russia, and in the context of the current war that the Kremlin has been waged in the country.

– How many war crimes have you managed to document from February 24 to date and how have you done it?

– When the invasion began we got together with various organizations to form tribunals to act on Putin's attacks and we built a network of Ukrainiansthat document and collect evidence of all war crimes, even those committed in the smallest cities. This joint work for eight months has allowed us to have evidence of 21,000 of these atrocities , which is a huge number, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. Putin affirmed that the Ukrainian nation does not exist and that the state, culture and language have no right to exist, which is a clear sign of the genocide intention underlying this war, and that It is consistent with the systematic violation of people's rights.

Oleksandra Matviichuk assures that Russia must be eliminated from the UN Security Council and calls for the world's solidarity with the Ukrainian people

– Could it be said that, due to the seriousness of the attacks that ended in massacres in Bucha and Irpin, the Russian troops sought to exterminate the population of those cities instead of conquering the territory?

– Russia used terror against the citizens to gain control of the various regions they were occupying. Bucha is an example of this and, as the offensive progressed, we have also seen this behavior in Izium and the Khraviv region-which were recently released-, with the same patterns of torture, mass graves, rapes, murder. And, behind these are general cases, there are stories like that of the Ukrainian musician and director in Kherson, Yurii Kerpatenko, who was killed by Russian troops after refusing to play at the “international concerts” that were organized in Kherson while it was under occupation. That is why, in the face of these injustices, when the world asks why we are fighting for these territories, we have to be very clear with our answer: we are fighting for the people who live there and we will never leave them alone in the face of torture and deaths.

– Another of the Kremlin's strategies has to do with child trafficking. What is the objective of these actions?

– It is a policy of the Russian Federation.This war has the characteristics of a genocide, by which Russia tries toeliminate the Ukrainian identity. That is why they forcibly deported Ukrainians to their country and began this strategy of appropriation of children. This policy of erasing national identity is very visible in the territories occupied during this offensive as well as in Crimeaand the Lugansk region -which were under his control for eight years, starting in 2014-. There, for example, they banned the Ukrainian language and gave ideological lessons teaching that “we are all Russians and Ukrainians are Nazists and fascists”. They tried to demolish our identity, erase our history, and liquidate the ethnic group, not only with attacks on the infrastructure but also with this manipulation.

Oleksandra Matviichuk, Nobel Peace Prize 2022: “Putin did not start the invasion" ;n to Ukraine for fear of NATO, but because he fears freedom”

Russia seeks to erase Ukrainian identity through the appropriation of children and the forced migration of people to its territory (AP)

– How many Ukrainian soldiers are still being held by Russian forces?

– I don't know the number. It is very difficult to make calculations in the middle of a war where there is no access to the territories, but I can say that there are many. And it's not just soldiers that Russia has imprisoned but also civilians because when we talk about our army we are referring to people like us, designers, journalists, software engineers, who went to the front lines after the invasion. For example, there is a case of a mathematics teacher from the kyiv region who was captured by Russian troops and sent to a detention center where she was held for months and, after lengthy negotiations, was able to be released as part of an exchange of prisoners and return home.

– Has progress been made in terms of respect for human rights in these detention centers?< /i>

– No, despite the fact that we have evidence that Russia violated international law on multiple occasions. We have documented torture, rape and fatal beatings during these imprisonments, so it is a shame that the international community does not provide legal instruments to stop this situation. This is a signal to the world that we have to do something with our international system of law, peace, security and protection of human rights. In this framework, all countries are exposed to the danger of this lack of efficiency, which shows that the guarantees in these cases lie in how strong each country's military system is. This approach is wrong because it will lead countries to invest in their military capabilities instead of educational, climate, equality and other resources. That is why we need to redesign this system.

– Once evidence of war crimes is collected, how does the process continue? How likely is it that those responsible will obtain a conviction?

– Many times I wonder for whom it is that we document all these violations since, to To be able to bring Russian officials or whoever is guilty of these acts to justice, it is necessary that there are legal mechanisms that accompany the process. Right now, the Ukrainian Justice System is overwhelmed by the number of criminal cases to be processed. That is why we need international assistance and, when we begin to think about who can assist us in this, we only have the International Criminal Court (ICC) -which advances on some particular cases-. So who will provide justice for the hundreds of thousands of other files that were not selected by the ICC? From the Center for Civil Libertieswe are working on a solid structure that allows justice to be brought to these victims because when we say that respect for human rights is a fundamental issue and that the life of each individual account, it's not a motto, we really believe it. We need answers for all these crimes but I'm sure it's possible.

Oleksandra Matviichuk, Nobel Peace Prize 2022: “Putin did not start the invasion" ;n to Ukraine for fear of NATO, but because he fears freedom”

"We need answers for all these crimes but I am sure it is possible", assured Matviichuk (Maximiliano Luna)

– The Russian invasion in Ukraine could be considered one of the greatest catastrophes in modern history?

– I think the war that Russia launched against Ukraine 8 years ago, in 2014, it was already a catastrophe for millions of people because their lives changed completely. The intention of the Russian troops at that time was also to attack and destroy residential buildings, schools, hospitals, churches, humanitarian corridors and aid convoys, along with the rape, abduction, death and horrific torture of civilians in the occupied territories. All this was definitely a catastrophe for the millions of people in Ukraine, something incredible that they could never have imagined.

– Has justice been achieved for the crimes of the 2014?

In those cases we also had problems because we spent eight years collecting evidence of the crimes but this information was not relevant to the world< /b>. It was very frustrating because I personally interviewed hundreds of people who survived the Russian arrests and they told me the horrible stories of how they were beaten, tortured, and even forced to write messages with their own blood. During all these years we sent multiple requests to the United Nations, to the Council of Europe, the European Union, but nothing worked. This was what led us to change our strategy and start organizing campaignswith people from all over the world. One of them was #SaveOlegSentsov for which, thanks to the support of thousands of ordinary citizens from various countries, we achieved the release of this peasant, among other political prisoners.

– Russia is still a member of the United Nations Security Council, what do you think about it?

– The answer it is very simple: Russia must be removed from the Security Council. World leaders have to take historical responsibility and be brave like the Ukrainians, who have organized themselves to deal with the conflict. It is not about state policies but about people who have helped their peers. That is why these leaders must now face up to these responsibilities and give an response, not only for the Ukrainians but also for the world, which has become a very dangerous place to live. Because if a member of the UN Security Council was able to enjoy eight years of impunity and then start a full-scale invasion, and there are no legal tools to stop these atrocities, then maybe something is wrong with the international system. and it is time to change it so that it works and is effective.

– How do you evaluate the position that the Pope adopted in this war?

– I think it is very difficult to understand things that have not been lived. Therefore, I invite the Pope to visit Ukraineand talk to people, feel their pain and take dimension of what is happening. It is very different to see the attacks on television instead of hearing the sirens and having to run for cover and treat the wounds of the person next to you. Those who visit Ukraine leave with another look at what is happening. It is very strange that he has not come yet because, for centuries, the Church has been in direct contact with the people most in need and in danger, so perhaps he will visit the country soon.

– China, North Korea and Iran -each in its own way- are Vladimir Putin's allies in this conflict.

– Yes, and it's a great example of how authoritarian regimes support each other. They are very clear that this is not a war between two states but rather a conflict over two systems: democracy and authoritarianism. Ukraine is just the showcase of this fight. And that is why they even exchange knowledge. Iran provides Russia with assistance in the use of weapons and the Kremlin guides the regime in the best way to suppress the protests. So, this shows us that democracies should also help each other. Because it is a battle of ideas. Putin started this war 8 years ago, not because he was afraid of NATO but because he was afraid of the idea of ​​freedom. In 2014 the attack began when the Ukrainian authoritarian regime collapsed and we got the opportunity to build a democracy, a country where rights are guaranteed, where the government is not corrupt, Justice is independent of the state and the police are at the service of the people. .

– What do you think is necessary for Russia to recognize Ukraine's independence?

– I think the first thing to understand is that this is a fight of the people of Russia and not just the Kremlin because Putin rules with a social contract that he has with the elite and the town, which is based on the famous “Russian Glory”. The people see this Glory as the reestablishment of the Soviet Union; So this imperialist culture is the root of the problem. It is essential that they understand that they do not have the right to take control over independent territories and decide on other societies. And the only way to get this is if Russia loses. Ukraine must win so these groups can reflect on it – painful for them but necessary for a democratic future.

Oleksandra Matviichuk, Nobel Peace Prize 2022: “Putin did not start the invasion of Ukraine out of fear of NATO, but because he fears freedom”

Russia is supported by China, North Korea and Iran, which is a sign that authoritarian regimes support each other and therefore democracies should too (REUTERS)

– Although from the beginning Russia has aimed to destroy key infrastructure, attack residential buildings and even use food as a weapon, this has intensified in recent times. Do you think this is because the troops can't win on the battlefield?

– Yes of course. They are losing on the battlefield, I want to emphasize this. The world is seeing that the Ukrainian people are stronger than the second largest armed group in the world (Russia). In September, Ukrainian troops liberated the Khraviv region and began to make small but very important gains and gains in the Kherson region, in the east of the country. To try to stop this advance and this liberation of territories, Russia began to implement terrorist strategiesvery clear. They have long aimed to attack critical infrastructure, but now they are doing it on purpose in kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, to deprive people of access to basic resources such as electricity. , water, heating during the winter, connection, Internet. Now I am in Argentina but my colleagues who are there sent me messages saying “sorry, I couldn't answer you because we didn't have internet for hours, nor light or electricity”. Russia, as a terrorist state, does this with the aim of making the Ukrainians suffer and therefore surrender. But we will never give up. They don't understand a very simple thing and that is, if you take any poll, for Ukrainians freedom is the main value. And, yes, we won't have electricity or water, temporarily, but we endure these difficulties because we are fighting for freedom. And freedom is worth it.

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