Ukrainian human rights experts and journalists discuss the Ukraine situation in virtual roundtable

Friday, October 21st, 2022


With the current events unfolding in Ukraine, a virtual roundtable (zoom) discussion was organized by the United States (US) Embassy in Guatemala City, Guatemala, with invited journalists from Central America and the Caribbean, including Senior Reporter Dion Vansen from The San Pedro Sun. Updates on Russia’s filtration operations, where hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been forcibly transferred to Russia since the start of the war/invasion in February of this year were reviewed, and featured three Ukrainian experts on the topic, including the action of war crimes.

The virtual roundtable started with brief remarks from US Ambassador to Guatemala William W. Popp. He pointed out some of the effects of the Russian invasion, which has compromised food security and brought other economic challenges to many European countries and even Latin America. Popp reiterated his country’s steadfast support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The ambassador spoke of the crucial session, which allowed people worldwide to see what was happening in that European country. Popp was honored to introduce the three Ukrainian panelists who provided details of what is happening in their country. They included human rights experts Hanna Hopko and Maria Kurinna Kyiv (Ukraine capital) and Independent Defense and Security journalist Illia Ponomarenko.

US Ambassador to Guatemala William W. Popp

What’s happening in Ukraine
Hopka was grateful for the opportunity to share the current situation in Ukraine. Over the past few days, she reports around 200 strikes via drones and ballistic missiles, resulting in many casualties. Most of the deaths are civilians, including children. Hopko stated that the attacks have now targeted specific diplomatic missions. She emphasized the importance of this military conflict ending soon as it continues to pose severe threats to global food security. The ongoing Russian invasion may bring further political and economic consequences; thus, the Ukrainian people continue asking for help. Many families have been separated, and Hopko shared that she has not seen her 11-year-old daughter for the past three months.

Hanna Hopko

Ukraine is one of the biggest food suppliers, including sunflower, oils, wheat, and corn. Hopka pointed out that the Russian army, under the orders of President Vladimir Putin, is destroying their history, culture, agriculture, and power infrastructure as Ukrainians now grapple with preparing for winter. Ukrainians continue to resist the Russian invasion and are asking for more help (weapons) and stricter sanctions against Russia from the international community. The Ukrainian army has so far been able to hold back the Russian aggression, but more help is needed from the allies. Hopko and her colleagues established the International Center for Ukrainian Victory to advocate for much-needed assistance. To find out more about this movement, visit http://ukrainianvictory.org/.

Maria Kurinna Kyiv

Kurinna shared the difficult situation many families face, having to leave their homes and towns. Her family was forced to flee for being pro-Ukraine. Kurinna said that her mother was tortured because of her stand. “But we don’t give up; we still continue to resist,” she said. Kurinna said she and her team had documented potential war crimes against humanity, sex violence, torture, and degrading treatment. Kurinna explained that on the second day following the Russian invasion, human rights organizations started to work on a coalition called Ukraine 5 AM (https://www.5am.in.ua/en) to document war crimes and offenses against humanity. This was done following international legal standards and brought perpetrators to justice, restoring the sense of justice for the victims. Some evidence indicates that Ukrainians had been held in a dark, dirty basement arranged as a torture chamber. “People had to sleep on the floor and endure inhumane treatment,” said Kurinna. The people held in these chambers were not military prisoners but ordinary Ukrainian citizens. She reports the increase in disappearances, and Ukrainians who were caught in Russia or Belarus on holidays at the start of the conflict were not able to return home. The abductions of Ukrainian citizens deported to Russia have continued as the conflict appears to be far from over.

Illia Ponomarenko

Journalist Ponomarenko addressed the curiosity of people from other countries, who may not see the Ukrainian situation as a priority. Ponomarenko emphasizes the importance of the topic; as Hopko mentioned, the Ukraine-Russia conflict is affecting the world, inflation is rising, and energy and food supplies are being threatened. Ponomarenko also described the situation as hostile because Russia is a nuclear power. He said many towns and cities across the country had been leveled; however, Ponomarenko remains optimistic that better will prevail.
The panelists appreciate the assistance their country is receiving from the international community. They hope to welcome visitors and fellow journalists who participated in the roundtable to Ukraine when the conflict is over. In the meantime, the fight continues with the optimism that Ukraine will win the war and claim back the territories invaded and annexed by Russia.


 

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