Ukraine’s victory is also the victory of the other Russia, which today – within the country and in exile – is fighting and resisting the increasingly repressive regime of Vladimir Putin. This other Russia – plural and scattered – organizes itself to be effective during a potentially long war; and also scans the nebulous options of a post-war future.
Behind this abstract and seemingly ambitious statement are concrete projects and real people who took part in a seminar in Madrid for three days, from February 1st to 3rd. The organizers of this event, sponsored by the European Union, were the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Foundations CIDOB and Rafael Del Pino.
The seminar brought together the leadership team of Memorial, the Moscow-based organization founded in 1989 to study Stalinism and defend civil rights. In 2022, Memorial was banned in Russia and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway.
More than twenty people, almost half of them Russian residents, attended the meeting in Madrid, where they debated with representatives of Ukrainian civil society and exiles from Belarus after the failed protests of 2020 against the dictatorship of Aleksandr Lukashenko.
In Russia, Putin is supported by the majority of the population, but there is also a minority, at least 5%, who oppose the regime and, at the risk of imprisonment, are helping Ukraine with various tasks, including the return of Ukrainian civilians, who were expelled to Russia by the circumstances of the war. This is what Evgeny Zakharov, head of the memorial in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, said. Zajárov works on compiling war crimes lists, which have already documented almost 32,000 cases. Their activities are listed on the T4pua.org website.
One of the most pressing problems today is the evacuated Ukrainian children who are lost in Russia, where they are said to be placed in guardianship of individuals or families. There is no reliable data on the number of these cases, although thousands of children are at risk of losing their roots in order to be integrated and indoctrinated in Russia.
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International humanitarian organizations should be more persistent and demand the establishment of a database that would allow these children to be identified and reunited with their families or returned to their country, said Svetlana Gánnushkina, a Russian refugee activist.
Today, despite all the information censorship, Russians can know what’s happening in Ukraine, and if not, then “because it’s more convenient for them not to know,” said one of the participants, continuing to support or engage with the official narrative.
Over the years, the West has been slow to respond to signs that the situation in Russia was deteriorating. And now that Moscow has left the Council of Europe, it has less leverage. By its very nature, the UN Security Council is a limited instrument; However, a repeated convening of this body to discuss the atrocities committed in Ukraine could be useful. The Russian veto would be inevitable, but the mere request for a phone call would keep the conflict alive in front of international public opinion, another participant stressed.
Contrary to appearances, the Putin regime still cares what the world thinks of its actions, and human rights abuses and abuses in Russia must therefore be made visible. Without international resonance or protest, there would be more repression in Russia, several activists said.
The seminar also discussed the need to bring those responsible for war crimes to justice and the appropriate and possible court to do so, since neither Russia nor Ukraine are members of the International Criminal Court.
The war provoked by Putin has led to interlinked migration flows. Several thousand people who went into exile from Belarus towards Ukraine in 2020 were again forced into exile, this time from Ukraine to other countries such as Poland or the Baltic States. Belarusian partisans and cyberpartisans are aiding Ukraine against Russia, some on the ground, on the battlefield and others on digital networks.
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