Defend Truth

THE GATHERING ESSAY

Seek truth and justice for Africa and Ukraine — it is a fight for national identity, culture and freedom

Seek truth and justice for Africa and Ukraine — it is a fight for national identity, culture and freedom
Ukraine's ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova on the sidelines of The Gathering in Cape Town. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

To support Ukraine and Ukrainians is to support the struggle for liberty, justice and legitimacy. Be brave like our nation is forced to be.

Because every problem has a solution…one cannot argue with this, but having in mind the history of my own country (Ukraine), I would add: not always that it has long-term solutions. Maybe today we have to consider together what must be done to guarantee lasting solutions for the challenges of nowadays.

Today, on 24 November, exactly nine months have passed since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Nine months of the world not only witnessing but also experiencing the consequences of Russia’s war of choice.

But I will say frankly: For Ukraine, this war has been going on longer. Longer than 30 years of independence. Longer than even 100 years.

For us, the war for freedom has been going on for over 400 years and goes back to the 16th century, when the Russian Empire made Ukraine its colony.

For 400 years of our struggle for freedom, Ukraine experienced a series of repressive acts by Moscow. We were starved and killed — about 10 million — in such a cruel way. Many Ukrainians died of hunger in the east and south of Ukraine, exactly where active hostilities are currently taking place. 

During the 400 years of our struggle for freedom, Ukrainians were forbidden to speak their native language many times, and poets and writers were shot for writing in Ukrainian.

But Ukrainians have not lost either their national identity, their culture, or their desire for freedom.

After all, Moscow knows very well that the only way to take away a Ukrainian’s freedom is by taking her life. That is why the Kremlin’s rhetoric so often sounds like ideas about the complete destruction of Ukrainians, and genocide.

On the other hand, what else can be expected from terrorists?

Terrorists who are capable of shooting energy facilities for months and who do not hide that this blackmail is intended to force Ukraine to make concessions and change its foreign policy. Terrorists are ready to make the entire African continent hostage to food insecurity, to starve the most vulnerable inhabitants of African countries. Only to force the world and Ukraine to recognise the annexation of its territory and turn a blind eye to Russia’s shameful crimes in Ukraine — murders, rapes, and forced deportation of adults and children to the territory of Russia.

But Ukraine is certain — criminals must and will be punished, history cannot be allowed to repeat itself and crimes against humanity must not go unpunished.

Since 24 February, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies registered damages or destruction of 62,008 civilian infrastructure facilities, including 43,574 residential buildings and houses, roads, and bridges, 1,970 educational and 398 medical institutions, 396 cultural and 87 religious buildings, and 5,322 water and electricity networks.

On Wednesday, another massive missile attack left most of the country in darkness. But even in the dark, we see the real face of Russia: greedy, defeated. Yes, we are without electricity, without water, without heat, but also, without Russia.

Russia must and will be held accountable for war crimes, for violation of international and humanitarian law, for environmental damage, for 1/3 of Ukraine’s territory requiring de-mining. For each and every life lost. 

We know and understand the pain of African countries, where the restoration of historical justice still requires the efforts of many people and the international community.

But we in Ukraine are convinced that the truth should be known about those whose lives and freedoms were oppressed. Admitting the truth is the first step to justice and healing. 

Russia’s unjustified war is not far from you. If we don’t act now, don’t stop this neocolonialism, it will affect all the countries, particularly in Africa.

Criminals and terrorists must be punished so that their example does not inspire others.


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Moreover, the international justice system must be improved so that criminals are deprived of access to economic and other benefits. That is why it is so important to apply sanctions against the aggressor country and against individual oligarchs who profit from the shortcomings of the system and finance corruption both in their own country and abroad.

Some time ago, Ukraine, as one of the three founding countries of the USSR, was involved in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. 

Everyone in Ukraine knows that South Africa was once the centre of the struggle for truth and freedom. For this, not only outstanding leaders of South Africa — such as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and others — gave their lives and sacrificed freedom. For this, many ordinary citizens gave their lives and health, whose struggle is significant because they were people from the people — like you and me, who simply did not want and could not tolerate injustice.

Today, this struggle continues. Ukrainians today are a nation that fights for truth and freedom. 

Once in South Africa, and now in Ukraine, people and humanity are the central ideas of our struggle. People who have the right to freely choose their leaders and the path of development of their country.

People who have the right to freedom, education, and self-realization. For freedom of conscience and freedom of expression, for a decent standard of living, a decent job, and a decent pension.

This is exactly what we, Ukrainians, are fighting for, and it is this right that Russia wants to take away from us by shelling peaceful cities, depriving us of heat, light and water. Demanding to make decisions based on her imperial interests, against our will, our choice and our decision.

We have to pay with blood for the right to choose our own path because otherwise, Russia threatens to wipe us off the face of the earth. De-Ukraine Ukraine, as Russian political technologists wrote in their ignoble articles about what Russia should do with Ukraine.

But we cannot and must not allow this to happen. That is why we all must have to join our efforts. Ukrainians and South Africans must stand together to protect people and humanity.

Today I encourage you to seek the truth. We must resist the lies and propaganda spread by Russia, along with fear and terrorism. Her lies can incite discord and sow enmity, so it is so important to unite and oppose this evil

That is why I am addressing each of you. Seek truth and justice, for Africa and for Ukraine. To support Ukraine and Ukrainians is to support the struggle for freedom, justice, and truth.

You can do it in a way that is affordable for you. You can search for true information. You can donate to support Ukraine. You can demand that Russia stop killing Ukrainians.

Each of you has ways you can support the peace and justice that South Africa was fighting for and that Ukraine is fighting for. I appeal to you — do not stay away! Do not be indifferent, because indifference and lies are killing with the same force as Russian missiles.

It is the end of the year: time to summarise results, build new plans, make wishes. Let me wish all of us that full justice prevails, the truth defeats lies. And me, all I want for Christmas is peace and more anti-missile systems for Ukraine.

Be as brave as you can, as you were. Be brave like Ukraine is forced to be.

Glory to Ukraine! DM

Liubov Abravitova, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine in the Republic of South Africa.

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