«Ukrainians are fighting because they want to preserve the value of freedom and human rights». Ivanna Malchevska and Mariia Khaliuk at the LibertyCon youth conference in Tbilisi

On 19-21 April, the LibertyCon 2024 youth conference was held in Tbilisi. It is one of the largest platforms uniting young leaders from various countries of the world around the values of freedom, development and human rights. Ivanna Malchevska, Project Manager of the Center for Civil Liberties, and Mariia Khaliuk, Assistant to the organization’s Executive Director, attended this event.

At the conference’s opening, Mariia Khaliuk spoke at the panel «Ukraine fights for our freedom» together with Tom Gordon Palmer, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and Vice President for International Programs at the Atlas Network.

«We are grateful to Sakartvelo for the opportunity to speak here about our joint fight against authoritarianism. We definitely share common values. Ukrainians survived Holodomor and entire generations of European artists were exterminated by the regime. Unpunished evil knows no boundaries. Indifference and inaction mean you agree that it will also come to your country», — Maria said.

Ivanna Malchevska took part in the final panel of the second day entitled «Fighting Russian Authoritarianism» together with the Georgian political figure Nikoloz Gvaramia and Evgenia Kara-Murza, the wife of the Russian political prisoner. Yekaterina Kotrikadze, News Director of Dozhd TV channel, moderated this panel. The discussion focused on the key issue: «How to overcome Russia and its authoritarianism» in the context of the Russian Federation, Georgia and Ukraine. The panelists also discussed the source of strength for the Georgian and Ukrainian peoples to continue fighting. 

«We in Ukraine know why we are fighting and what we are fighting for. It is not just a war among countries, not a war between Russia and Ukraine or NATO. It is a war waged by the Russian authoritarianism against democracy. Ukrainians are fighting because they want to preserve the values of freedom, human rights, democracy, freedom of expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly. It is the source of our strength, and it is also the reason we were attacked. Russia is scared of these values and sees them as a threat.

When your home is ruined, your family members are killed, and your friends die in the war every day, an entirely emotional reaction of refusing to engage in a dialogue with any Russians is a very normal, non-aggressive and understandable reaction in such circumstances. Is dialogue with Russians possible? Yes, it is. But under certain conditions. First, it is important for these Russians to wish Ukraine to win, not Russia to lose. And second, they should do everything they can to bring the victory closer.

It’s not a secret that the Centre for Civil Liberties is even now engaged in a dialogue with the Russians. We conduct it to free and help our Ukrainian civilians who were unlawfully captured and imprisoned by the Russian military during the occupation of the Ukrainian territories. However, it should also be clear that most Ukrainians believe that it is indeed detrimental and unacceptable to build dialogue with people who killed their relatives or friends. And I am sure that before blaming them, you should try to understand them.

Today, before speaking at this panel, I read a tweet with a photo from the funeral of a brave Ukrainian soldier and public activist Pavlo Petrychenko, who died a few days ago. A girl wrote on Twitter, “Those who go all the way will be the loneliest people in the world. Thank you for your service, Pavlo”. These words are about the tremendous pain that the Ukrainians live through every day. So, before blaming, it is worth trying to understand the reasons why», — Ivanna explains.