Displaced Ukrainians line up in a refugee camp in Prague, Czech Republic to apply for a job (Photo from THEPHILBIZNEWS/Monsi A. Serrano)
By Ambassador Olexander Nechytaylo, Non-resident Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of the Philippines
The unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine has been topping international headlines for more than a month now. Humankind is witnessing with disbelief the horrific crimes taking place in the middle of the 21st century Europe. Cruel, unjust and unnecessary war imposed on the world by the Kremlin already resulted in a tremendous humanitarian crisis with thousands of civilian casualties, 6.5 million internally displaced persons in Ukraine and another 3,5 million seeking refuge in the neighbouring countries. It is a tragedy caused by the sick imperial ambitions of an economically underdeveloped, but overstuffed with nuclear warheads regime living in a nostalgic hallucination. The Bucha massacre, a small town near Kyiv, where a mass burial site was discovered after the Russian retreat with hundreds of corpses, bodies of raped women and girls, tortured and executed civilians, some with their hands tied, lying on the streets, has already become a gruesome symbol of Putin’s vision of ‘neutrality’ and ‘denazification’ for Ukraine and brought back the memories of Srebrenica. Yet, there are voices of various ‘experts’ that are relentlessly pushing around subtle messages of propaganda that mislead, instil doubts, and distract from the burning fire.
It is imperative to understand some basics of international relations before attempting to indulge into all sorts of theoretical discourse based on the false narratives. The principles of non-use of force, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-intervention, self-determination and sovereign equality are the pillars of the contemporary world order. In other words, each country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity are sacred. Every nation is equal: no matter how big or small.
Let us separate the wheat of truth from the chaff of propaganda and look at what is happening through the prism of undeniable facts.
Fact 1. By invading Ukraine Moscow blatantly violated not only the international law and the UN Charter, but also the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South East Asia and at least a dozen more bilateral and multilateral agreements that Russia is a party to.
Fact 2. While waging a war on Ukraine, the Russian military is deliberately targeting civilians, residential homes, critical infrastructure, medical facilities and shelters. Foreign Minister Lavrov at a press conference in Antalya did not even try to conceal it: Russian pilots purposely bombed the maternity hospital in Mariupol. But the Bucha tragedy puts the whole magnitude and brutality of crimes committed by the Russian military into entirely new dimension. There is an urgent need to establish a special international tribunal in response to the multiple violations of the international humanitarian law by the occupiers.
Fact 3. Ukraine is a democracy with the rule of law, where people freely exercise their rights and freedoms. For over more than fifteen centuries’ history even at its darkest hours, Ukrainians proved that freedom and social justice are the core values embedded in our DNA. This sentiment can certainly resonate with the people in the Philippines that have a proud history of their own struggle for independence. Jose Rizal once said: “I don’t see why I should bow my head when I could hold it high, or place it in the hands of my enemies when I can defeat them.” At a closer look one may find some striking similarities between him and President Zelenskyy, particularly when it comes to the ability to inspire and lead the nation during the pivotal moments of its history.
Fact 4. Ukraine and the Philippines enjoy excellent bilateral relations. This month our countries mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties. I feel immensely honoured and privileged to represent my country here as Ambassador. Ever since my first trip to Manila back in 1997, I fell in love with the kind, compassionate and hard-working people, and made friendships that I cherish until now. Essentially, we share the same values, and this is one of the reasons why there are so many people-to-people connections. Today Ukraine is fighting for its freedom again. The Philippines’ consistent support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is very important to us. We are equally grateful for the most recent decision to open the door to Ukrainians, who might temporarily need a safe place in the midst of this raging war: this is something we will never forget.