Daring Dissent: A Conversation With Ukrainian Authors and Activists

Monday, May 16, 2022
Konstantin Chernichkin/Reuter


Novelist and President, PEN Ukraine

Executive Director, PEN Ukraine

Kateryna Yesypenko

Wife of Jailed Crimean Journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko


Anchor and Managing Editor, PBS NewsHour; CFR Member

Introductory Remarks

Chief Executive Officer, PEN America; CFR Member

Ukrainian writers and human rights defenders discuss the threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty, cultural heritage, and identity and the current atmosphere for the country’s authors and activists.

This meeting is cosponsored with PEN America.


NOSSEL: Hello. I’m Suzanne Nossel. I’m the CEO of PEN America. And it’s my great honor and pleasure to introduce this event. PEN America has partnered with the Council on Foreign Relations in recent years to bring prominent authors and intellectuals from Myanmar, Russia, France, and elsewhere to this audience. And we’re delighted to be doing so, I think, for the first time since the onset of COVID.

Our organizations, Council on Foreign Relations and PEN America, share a birthday—both turning a hundred years old this year. It’s not a coincidence, in that both institutions were founded in the wake of World War I out of a recognition that after the level of barbarism witnessed the world must not be allowed to simply revert to form. In the case of PEN, it was writers who came together around the idea that authors might have a role to play in preventing the next world war.

Their vision was an organization of writers all around the world who would make common cause, using books, literature, and ideas as a means to spark empathy, foster understanding and bridge across political, geographic, and ideological divides. At PEN America, we have worked to fashion that vision into a 21st century reality. Obviously, our writers a hundred years ago were not—it took some time for them to achieve maybe a measure of that success. And that success is precarious.

About six years ago we first began working with PEN Ukraine, which was then a small voluntary organization of writers alarmed at the invasion of Crimea and the occupation of Donbas. In partnership, we were able to help them secure funding, staffing, and an office, building up a thriving group that has emerged as one of Ukraine’s leading human rights organizations. Witnessing their energy and activities during the current war has been inspiring. They publish a weekly newsletter that chronicles all of their programs, their outreach, their documentation of events, and the essential role they are playing in bearing witness.

At PEN, we believe fervently in the powers of writers and writing to enlighten the world, which is why it was so important to us to bring the voices of leading Ukrainian writers to an international audience. Last week, Andriy Kurkov, the president of PEN Ukraine, delivered the PEN Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, the crowing event of the PEN World Voices Festival, a gathering of writers from more than fifty countries in New York. Also last Friday, we gathered for PEN World Voices Emergency Writers Congress to take stock of the cascading crises we are collectively living through and to examine the role of narrative and stories in coming to grips with them.

You can read about it today in the New York Times in an article by Jenny Schuessler, headlined, “We, the Writers? A Global Literary Congress Meets in New York.” We are thrilled to host Andrei and the other members of this delegation, writers, and the executive director of PEN Ukraine for these events, and now a series of important discussions here in Washington. So over to our moderator, Judy Woodruff. Thank you so much.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. Thank you, Suzanne, for the background and for the welcome. I know everyone is anxious to hear from our Ukrainian guests. And I’m very, very glad to be part of this conversation, and look forward to having questions from all of you after we have a chance to hear from them. I’m going to briefly introduce each one. They each have a long and extraordinary and impressive resume. But I’m going to make—I’m going to make just a brief introduction.

And that would be, starting on my immediate right is Iya Kiva. She is a widely published poet. She was born in Donetsk in the east of Ukraine. She fled that part of the country in 2014. Has been living in Kyiv, working there, and internationally recognized for her work. Very glad to have you with us.

Tetyana Teren, to her right, is the executive director of PEN Ukraine. She is a writer and a journalist. She’s been an editor of a literary magazine and very active, as we said, in journalism and writing.

Andriy Kurkov, you’ve already heard about from Suzanne, is the president of PEN Ukraine. He is a writer. He is a journalist. He’s a screenwriter. He is the author of, I believe, thirteen novels and five children’s books, more than twenty films have been done in—based on his scripts, his screenwriting. So he is an accomplished writer and journalist himself.

And finally, Kateryna Yesypenko is an economist, works in finance. She is here because she is the wife of a Ukrainian journalist jailed by the Russians, arrested within the past year in Crimea, and sentenced to six years in a Russian work camp—labor camp. We’re going to hear from Kateryna as well in just a moment.

So let me begin with you, Andriy. Explain to everyone why your delegation is here in Washington.

KURKOV: Good afternoon or good morning. First of all, because this war has not only military aspect, Russian invasion. It has a cultural aspect. And the cultural invasion of Ukraine started much earlier than the military invasion. Already fifteen years ago actually Russian culture was trying to replace Ukrainian culture on the eastern territories of Ukraine, in Bessarabia, in Crimea. Now the united forces Russian army, with Russian masterminds of cultural invasion. And as the result, we have more than 250 cultural objects lost, damaged, or destroyed.

The war started with destruction of the Maria Prymachenko Museum. Mira Prymachenko was one of the best Ukrainian primitive artists. And ten days ago, approximately, a single missile destroyed the Hryhorii Skovoroda Museum in the village near Kharkiv. Hryhorii Skovoroda is the most famous Ukrainian philosopher and writer who wrote in several languages in eighteenth century. And there were no military installations in this village, neither there were military detachments. So it was a purposeful act of destruction.

On the occupied territories, actually Russian army is taking objects from the Ukrainian museums, which are not destroyed, and sending them to Russia proper. They are replacing education in Ukrainian language with education in Russia and according to the Russian school program. The memorial plaques and the museums dedicated to Ukrainian cultural figures destroyed or closed down. So, I mean, this is the war against Ukrainian identity—cultural identity, because actually culture and language shape the identity of people.

This is the explanation also why Putin before the war, he said that Ukrainians don’t exist and Ukraine was invented by Lenin, in spite of the fact that actually some months ago he was saying that Ukrainians and Russians are two brotherly nations. In his last speech, he didn’t actually mention the word “Ukraine.” So he refuses now to recognize that Ukraine has a right to exist as a sovereign country.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. Tetyana, let me come to you first—next, as executive director and as someone who’s a journalist and writer in your own right. You know, we just heard Andriy say this is a war against Ukraine’s identity. What does that mean for journalists and for writers in your country?

TEREN: Thank you. Good afternoon. I will answer in Ukrainian.

(Continues through interpreter.) I want to say that our organization unites more than 140 Ukrainian intellectuals. So we are one of the biggest such entities in the country. So our goal, when we are there in Washington as well as in New York is to represent the voices of those Ukrainian intellectuals who are now in Ukraine, staying in Ukraine. It’s important for us to be heard in America. So in addition to speaking about Russian war crimes against Ukraine and Ukrainian cultural identity, we also speak to Ukrainian journalists. We do human rights defense activities. And we’re also trying to support Ukrainian journalists. They need a lot of support these days. And I want to tell you this terrible number: Twenty-four Ukrainian journalists already have been killed in the war.

In the course of the two and a half months of this ongoing war, we have carried out a number of important projects. And I’ll tell you about one of them. We organized an exhibit of information, materials named Call the War a War. We did it in Lviv, a city where there are hundreds and hundreds of foreign journalists every day. And they were able to watch and study this. And the point is to tell the world that you cannot call this a conflict or just aggression or something. You have to say that this is a bloody war.

WOODRUFF: Let me—let me turn now to you, to Iya Kiva, who, as I mentioned, is a poet. Had to leave her home in eastern Ukraine and go to Kyiv in 2014. How has this war affected the work that you are able to do, Iya?

KIVA: (Through interpreter.) I hope you understand that during the eight years prior to the big invasion that started in February of 2022, there was a small local war that lasted for eight years. And during those eight years, journalists, writers were the ones mostly speaking about it, and crying out loud that the war is going on. So personally, I’ve had the experience of a displaced person, but there are others, colleagues, who do not—did not become displaced or did not have personal war experience. But still, we all feel that it’s important for us to speak about war as a crime and convey this message. We sometimes hear, disapprovingly, that we are being too politicized, too political, too biased. And I can tell you, we would love to write about things of beauty and not about war and other calamities. But the neighbor that we have across the border, Russian Federation, they do not let us.

(Speaks in Ukrainian.)

WOODRUFF: Thank you. Thank you. And I just want to say, I have so many questions for you. We have about another ten minutes or so among us and then we’ll take questions for the audience.

But let me turn to you now, Kateryna. Your husband, Vladyslav, was arrested last year. He was sentenced to six years in a Russian labor camp. And I understand he’s one of 115 Crimean political prisoners. How is he doing? How do you stay in touch with him? And how is his circumstance motivating you today?

YESYPENKO: (Through interpreter.) Good morning. It’s a great honor for me to speak here today. And I want to remind you that Russia has imprisoned more than ten Ukrainian journalists in the Crimea. My husband worked for Radio Liberty. And with his other colleagues, we believe that this was an information war front. So he was just as much a warrior as those who are dying for Ukraine today. The imprisoned journalists in the Crimea—because they are in prison their families, their children are now left without fathers, without husbands. You know, it’s virtually impossible to tell you in full the whole pain of how it feels when you lose a family member like that.

So this imprisonment, it’s like a death on the person. But we only hope it will not be forever. There are moments of despair, but overall we keep hope that our husbands and our—the fathers of our children one day will come back home to us. And at those difficult moments I keep telling myself: Vladyslav, there in prison, is in worse conditions that I am here, when I have freedom and I am with you here now.

(Continues in English.) Thank you.

WOODRUFF: We so appreciate your—of course, your being here. And we want to hear as much of your story as we can hear.

Andriy, let me come back to you. What do you want the American people who are listening to you to know about freedom of speech, freedom of voice, freedom of the press in your country right now, in contrast with what it was before?

KURKOV: Well, first of all, I’m amazed that we don’t have military censorship in Ukraine after the beginning of this war. And we didn’t have censorship from August 1991, when Ukraine became independent. So, I mean, the freedom of press is still there. There are limits on the information about what is happening on the front lines, but everybody understands this. So, I mean, we are still remaining free, democratic country with freedom of press, even during this invasion.

WOODRUFF: And are you—do you—so that’s not an issue for you. The issue—

KURKOV: No, freedom of speech is not an issue in Ukraine. The issue I’ve been—for me, personally, is that many people in America, as well as in other countries, still don’t know much about Ukrainian history and about Ukraine and about the reasons for this war and for hatred of Putin towards everything Ukrainian. So, I mean, I would ask, actually, everybody who has time to read nonfiction books on Ukrainian history and on the tragedies that Ukraine survived, especially in the Soviet time, but also before the revolution 1917. There are very wonderful books, like Timothy Snyder’s big book, which is called Bloodlands; Anne Applebaum, Red Hunger (sic; Red Famine); and Serhii Plokhy, Canadian author and historian, Gates of Europe. Because, I mean, Russian history and what is Russia, everybody knows. But, I mean, apart from the word “Ukraine” and the slogan, “be brave like Ukraine,” unfortunately Western people don’t know much about our country.

WOODRUFF: Yeah. No question about it. I mean, Americans—many Americans could not even point to Ukraine on a map before this.

KURKOV: Yeah. I mean, I was told recently by one American that Americans are interested only in the countries where they participated in conflict. I mean, in Ukraine America participates and helps us a lot. So hopefully there is a motivation now to find out more about Ukraine.

WOODRUFF: Yeah. Tetyana, to you. To be a journalist today in Ukraine, to be an artist, is the war—has the war, do you think, sharpened—how much has the war sharpened that focus, do you think?

TEREN: (Through interpreter.) I want to tell you that a video was produced by our team about, like, a change of occupations that was caused by the war for many people, many ways, many reasons. But part of that story is the journalists and even writers who gave up their civil life, civilian life, and became—went into military service, and are now fighting like other soldiers. And we are very proud of those colleagues. It is important to point out that out of 140 members of our organization, there’s not more than maybe 10 percent who had to leave the country, mostly for private family reasons. And all others decided they have to stay inside because they say it's their calling to tell the world about what’s going on in Ukraine.

It's also important to mention—and Mr. Kurkov was saying this—many of our writers who used to write fiction before the war, they now switched into writing publicist work, opinions, op-eds, commentaries. So they kind of move closer to journalism to talk about what’s going on. And by the same token, all the journalists who are doing this, I think they are true heroes. And we need to recognize that. I want to also mention and emphasize two Ukrainian photojournalists who covered the war. They stayed in Mariupol, the, sadly, famous city besieged by Russians. They stayed there to the very end and were among the last people to leave it. And they continued covering all the disruption and the terrors of war. Their names are Mstyslav Chernov and Eygeny Maloletka is the other one. Oh, and a big story about him was published by the Associated Press. I very much encourage you to go and check that story.

WOODRUFF: OK, we just have a couple—

KURKOV: Can I add a couple words? I just want to mention that actually we have photographers and writers and poets killed by Russians already, including one of the best photojournalists, Maks Levin, who was killed near Kyiv in March, and including the translator from ancient Greek and professor of the religious academy, Alexander Kislyuk. But also some poets were killed. And a couple of days ago, Ilia Chernilevsky, a young poet who became a soldier, was killed in the front.

WOODRUFF: Every one a tragedy. Every one. We only have a couple of minutes before we want to take questions now from the audience. So my final question I want to pose to Iya. And that is, you know, the whole world—we in the United States and around the world—people have been just so—it’s been remarkable to see what the Ukrainian people have done, how you have stood up to the Russian aggression. What is it inside the heart of the Ukrainian people that has given you the strength that you have, do you think?

KIVA: (Through interpreter.) Before I answer your question, I want to mention one other female poet, Nadia Antonova (sp). She also was killed in Mykolaiv during the war.

And for your question, I have very simple answer. So one strong and permeating feeling that we all probably share, and I certainly do, is the sense of pride for being Ukrainian and fascination with everything Ukrainian. The realization and pride for your ancestors and all the roots of Ukrainian-ness. The whole nation, the whole country, all its cities and towns, we perceive that as one collective body. So all the—all the tragedies happening in different places, we feel it like our body aching in different parts.

And there’s another very important part of what we all feel. And that’s tremendous anger at the—at Russia for invading our private space. You, Americans, probably understand very well how bad it is when somebody invades your private space. That’s what we’re all feeling. And along with that there is another part of what we feel. And that’s sadness, grief. We—and the pain—because we sometimes, or often, are not able to mourn over the dead. There’s just no time, no opportunity, no way to bury the dead bodies because of the shelling—continued shelling and airstrikes. So this is something that is going to—will need to be done by us in the future. A lot of things to do for us in terms of mourning and dealing with the struggle of the whole nation.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. Really, really important, I think, for all of us to hear this.

Now, we want to turn to Council members, and to PEN members who are joining us, for your questions. A reminder this is all—it has been and it is on the record. And we are going to take the first question here in Washington. I want to call on Halyna Kruk, who I believe is right here in the front row. She too is a poet from Ukraine. Halyna, what would you add to what we were just hearing about what is driving this extraordinary passion and determination on the part of the people of Ukraine?

Q: (Through interpreter.) I want to point out, very importantly, that there is a tremendous difference between how the Ukrainian situation is perceived by people outside Ukraine and those who are inside. Because those who are inside, they are struggling for survival. And when you are confronted with the need to struggle for survival, very different mechanisms are activated in your mind and in your body. Well, we—as writers, we certainly are focused on war. It’s natural, because that is about survival and our continued existence. If we stop existing, literature will also stop existing. And now that war is going on and we don’t see an end to it at this time, it is very important for us to keep speaking to the world about it so that the world’s attention does not move away. We apologize if we sound excessively emotional to you, but it’s hard to not be so emotional.

WOODRUFF: I think everyone completely understands. It is hard for Americans to imagine even what it’s like to have your country invaded by another country. So we can only listen to you and try to understand what it is you are living in and experiencing.

Let’s take some other questions now from online. I think we have a system for recognizing people. How do we do that?

OPERATOR: We will take a virtual question from Anthony Borden.

Q: Hi. Thanks so much. I hope you can hear me. I’m Tony Borden with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

I’ve been in and out of the country since February. The first thing is thanks so much to the amazing Ukrainian journalists I’ve had the inspiration to work alongside with. And their professional generosity and help to help me to do my own work has been remarkable. Just the most wonderful people you could call your colleagues. I have three very quickfire questions.

First of all, in what ways is the international press getting the story wrong, or are we still getting it wrong? Are we getting it right? That would be interesting. Secondly, groups such as ours are providing funding, solidarity, partnership, flak jackets. What more could be provided? And finally, thirdly, you mentioned three great nonfiction books about Ukraine. Could you mention three great Ukrainian novels that we should also consider reading? Thank you.

WOODRUFF: All right. I’m going to turn, I think, to Andriy to answer this. First of all, let’s take them one at a time. He asked, what is the international press getting wrong about the war?

KURKOV: Well, European and American press I think is quite objective. The problem is in Latin America, where Russia is winning propaganda war and spreading its narrative, and there is nobody to contradict it. And I had conversations with many Latin American journalists. And I was address by them, asking: Is it true that Ukraine is extremely anti-Semitic country? My answer would be is we understand that anti-Semitic country wouldn’t vote with 73 percent of votes for Jewish, Russian-speaking president. The same situation as in Africa. So, I mean, I am very happy with reporting by European and American journalists from Ukraine and about Ukraine.

WOODRUFF: His next question was his organization is providing some funds. And as we know, the United States is providing help. What more can they do, can organizations do?

KURKOV: Well, I think spreading word about Ukraine inside America, and maybe looking for possibility to have joint projects on Ukrainian territory in the wartime. It would actually motivate Ukrainians very much.

WOODRUFF: What is an example of a kind of project you speak of?

KURKOV: Well, I mean, we’ve, for example, online dialogues in English of Ukrainian PEN members with international writers. We had a dialogue with Margaret Atwood and Philippe Sands. And people, I mean, like writers and lawyers, like Philippe Sands, could be involved in the projects to talk about the Ukrainian past with Ukrainians for the international audience.

WOODRUFF: And today’s technology allows that.

KURKOV: Yeah. It allows, yes.

WOODRUFF: Last question. And I’m going to—I’m going to turn to you, Tetyana—is he said, what are three novels Americans should read to better understand Ukraine?

TEREN: (Through interpreter.) I would like to add a few words to answering the previous questions. So a question was how the world can help the Ukrainian intellectual community. And I want to point out a few—a few moments. The support expressed and proclaimed for Ukraine in the first months of war, that was very impressive, and we are very thankful for that. But I want to emphasize that most of our writers and cultural figures are still in Ukraine, while a lot of cultural activities have been suspended—such as museums, publishing houses, and many other entities have stopped working. And so these writers and figures of culture, they do need support, such as scholarships and other funds, to help them keep functioning. And that’s what I would like to ask you to think about.

And one other thing where we definitely need support and help from you is helping us tell the world about Ukraine. And that means—that’s very important. And that means helping us to publish our books and deliver our messages in other forms outside Ukraine.

(Continues in English.) Yes, and Judith, you had the question about three Ukrainian modern novels. First of all, I’m thinking about—(off-side conversation)—want to discuss in English.

So first of all, I’m thinking about three—I’m thinking about three Ukrainian surnames of Ukrainian authors. This is our colleague from PEN Ukraine, Serhiy Zhadan, who is staying in Kharkiv. There was a very difficult situation in this deep Ukrainian city, but Serhiy is so brave writer and Ukrainian that he decided to stay in his native city. And so he wrote many important novels about Ukraine. And first of all, I advise to find a novel Voroshilovgrad. As I remember, it was translated into English, so you can find this book.

And also, I’m thinking about two other Ukrainian writers, Artem Chekh and Artem Chapeye. They are also members of our organizations. And these two writers decided to join Ukrainian army at the beginning of this full-scale Russia’s war on Ukraine. I know that their novels also were translated into English, so you can find their books in America. And maybe Andriy also can add some other surnames, because it’s very difficult every time to remember just three surnames about Ukraine.

KURKOV: Well, one of my favorite Ukrainian novels is Sweet Darusya by Maria Matios. It is available in English. I think it was translated. But I wanted also to point out that Howard University Press published four books recently translated from Ukrainian authors, including Volodymyr Rafeyenko, Mondegreen and Stanislav Aseev, which is a very important book. It’s a journalism blogger who was imprisoned in Donetsk, who was tortured. And this is a book about his experience, which is called—I don’t remember the English title—but you can just remember, Aseev, A-S-E-E-V. And you can find this book online.

TEREN: Ukrainian Institute—Harvard Ukrainian Institute translated two Stanislav’s books. First one was supported by PEN Ukraine. It was In Isolation. So this book, it’s also a collection of Stanislav’s essays. And I know that the Ukrainian Institute also working on the next book of Olena Stiazhkina. It’s also a great Ukrainian writer who is trying to understand the reasons of this war in Ukraine. So I ‘d like to advise to find also this book. Maybe in next month it will be translated into English too.

WOODRUFF: All right. Wonderful. And of course, we want to remind everybody to read the poetry of Iya, who’s right here, and Helena.

I want to take the next question from the room here in Washington. Someone raise a hand. Back there, yeah. Give us your name and your organization. Thank you.

Q: Thanks so much. My name is Mark Vlasic, I teach at Georgetown. I’m also a TV producer in Hollywood.

But I started my life as a war crimes prosecutor in the Hague, focused on the genocide in Bosnia. Some of the best sources of witnesses and for investigations we had were journalists from Bosnia there in the region. And I’d love to hear your thoughts on the interest of pursuing war crimes prosecutions and investigations from the war in Ukraine.

WOODRUFF: Andriy, why don’t you take that?

KURKOV: Well, we have not only journalists now fixing the war crimes by Russians, but also international specialists from France and I think from couple of other countries. So, I mean, they work to collect evidence and to get proof of the crimes is going on. Nobody’s sure when the trial will take place and where but, actually, I mean, Ukrainian society is very much concerned with war crimes committed by Russian army, especially in the towns like Bucha, Gostomel, Vorzel, Borodyanka, and in Kharkiv region and in Mariupol, and in other places. I mean, I’m sure we have more victims and more actually journalists than we know because some of the journalists who were kidnapped in Melitopol, for example, when Melitopol was occupied, and they were—there was no information about their whereabouts. Not only journalists, but also the head—for example, the head of the education of the city council of Melitopol, Iryna Shcherbak, was kidnapped more than one month ago. And there is nothing known about her.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. A question online from our virtual members.

OPERATOR: At this time we do not have any questions online. I’ll turn it back to you, Ms. Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: All right. We have several hands here in Washington. Yes, right here.

Q: Hi. My name is Aimee Chen. I’m a senior program officer for Ukraine at Freedom House.

We have, of course, had discussions with PEN Ukraine on various issues in the past. And—

WOODRUFF: Hold the microphone a little bit closer so we can hear you clearly. Thank you.

Q: OK. So my name is Aimee Chen. I’m a senior program officer for Ukraine at Freedom House.

And of course, we have had discussions with PEN Ukraine about numerous issues in the past. My question is for the human rights community. What should the human rights community do to support the artistic community in Ukraine, including in documentation in war crimes and crimes against journalists, and artistic and cultural heritage?

WOODRUFF: The human rights community, their role?

TEREN: (Through interpreter.) Well, I can tell you—I can tell you about our experience, because we are both a cultural and also a human rights organization. So during the first month of war, we were totally focused on helping our constituents, our members with issues of relocation, of funding their, you know, living expenses, and put a lot of work to help each one of them. And we understand that this is a task for us for a long time ahead. And we created our own internal fund of material support. And we’re also working on some external support programs. Speaking of human rights activities, we are focused on documenting all the crimes and violations, including crimes against Ukraine’s culture. And we report—we collect the information. We report this information to external—to the international audience.

So we see this as our big task to continue recording the findings and reporting them to the world so the dialogue between us and the international human rights organizations would not stop. And one other thing I want to mention is that many of our members, constituents joined the volunteer movement, serving as volunteers on different issues. The same applies to our human rights activists. We recently put our forces together with five human rights organizations in Ukraine to create a joint program and a support fund for those journalists and other activists who suffered in the war, who got wounded, and that’s what we are doing.

WOODRUFF: All right. I think we are just about out of time. We have just a minute. I want to come back to Kateryna for a final word from you about what you want the American people to know, as they begin to confront a war that could go on for some time. And you in Ukraine are, frankly, competing for the world’s interest as the world faces many crises.

YESYPENKO: (Through interpreter.) I want you to remember that this war did not start on February 24th, 2022. This is a war that has been going on for eight years now. There’s been persecution of Ukrainian citizens on the occupied territories. There’s been persecution of independent media and journalists, arrests and detentions in the Crimea of Ukrainian citizens, of Crimean Tatars. When all this started, back in 2014, and the Western community failed to understand the dangers and threats of what was going on, that somehow resulted in the big and blood war, invasion in 2022. And now the big issue is about making the punishment unavoidable to all the war criminals.

Russia needs to understand that a price for this war, for this invasion, is their losses, their blood, their fear. And that will make them give it up. That needs to happen. Well, things are changing in the sense that we no longer have to go and prove and argue that we have our own identity and our own history and our own culture. It is not possible to accept the annexation of Crimea. It is impossible to make deals with them, because they keep telling lies.

And I want to mention that Vladyslav is now in prison, like many other Ukrainians who are prisoners of war, the Ukrainian military soldiers. And the only force, the only entity that can bring them freedom is the armed forces of Ukraine. And in order for that to happen, Ukrainian armed forces need more new, modern weapons. We are a strong nation and a strong country. And we will defend ourselves with that support. Glory to Ukraine.

WOODRUFF: Thank you very much. Appreciate so much the contribution. And I know all the Council members do. To Kateryna Yesypenko, to Andriy Kurkov, to Tetyana Teren and to Iya Kiva, thank you so much for your joining us today. I just want to say that the video of this session and the transcript will be posted on the Council’s website. And for those of you here in Washington, we’re asking you to join us in a room next door for a reception. But for now, please give your thanks for this panel. (Applause.)


This is an uncorrected transcript.



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