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The struggle for freedom and independence has returned to Eastern Europe

8 May 2020

The struggle for freedom and independence has returned to Eastern Europe

Statement by Witold Waszczykowski MEP, chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee, on the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Victory Day in Europe. On May 8th 1945, the nightmare that started with the invasion and partition of Poland between Nazi Germany and the USSR was finally coming to an end. The date cherished by so many reminds us of the necessity to remember the past in order to ensure a better future for ourselves and the upcoming generations.

However, those Europeans who found themselves on the unfortunate side of the Iron Curtain were plagued by Communist totalitarianism for close to half a century and could not enjoy the freedom and prosperity of their Western neighbours.

Among them was Ukraine, which had suffered tremendously throughout a significant part of the 1900’s. Not only was it destroyed during World War II, when the frontline moved through its territory twice: when the Red Army retreated in 1941 and during its offensive in 1943-1944. Even before the war, Ukrainians were being systemically exterminated by the Russian Communist Regime, which utilized inhuman tactics resulting in the starving 7 of million Ukrainian people to death. The genocide that preceded the Holocaust came to be known as the Holodomor or the Great Famine.

Today, in the face of the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine and the illegal occupation of Crimea, it is clear that history has returned to Eastern Europe and it is disguised as Russia’s “little green men.” Those on the frontlines of Ukraine’s struggle for freedom and independence are literally trapped in our continent’s tragic past. Those of us, being in a more fortunate geopolitical situation, are being bombarded by Russia’s propaganda and distorted version of World War II, its causes and legacy.

Moscow’s military aggression goes hand in hand with its historical propaganda, as the former is being justified by the latter. Therefore, our collective ability to be able to tell the victims from the perpetrators is not only a matter of decency and sticking to facts. Recent experience demonstrates that remembering our past the way it happened is essential for maintaining peace and stability in Europe.

Last year September, the European Parliament adopted its resolution on the Importance of European remembrance for the future of Europe. MEPs argued that European integration as a model of peace and reconciliation has been a free choice by the peoples of Europe to commit to a shared future. Russia’s military aggression and historical revanchism are designed not to let Ukraine choose a future but to force her people to live in the past.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been consistently trying to portray itself as the force that liberated Europe from Nazi Germany. In doing so, it downplays the role of the Western Allies and completely disregards the millions of lives given by soldiers from other SSRs, including Ukraine. More importantly, Russia overlooks the fact that Hitler and Stalin started World War II in tandem, when they invaded Poland within two weeks of
each other in September 1939. What followed the war was just another form of oppression of the millions of Europeans left behind the Iron Curtain, even though the Kremlin calls it “liberation.”

This year’s celebrations, to be orchestrated by the Kremlin, were postponed until September 3 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The goal of this publicity stunt is to have as many foreign leaders as possible take part alongside Vladimir Putin. We must to bear in mind that participation of Western leaders in the so-called Victory Parade in Moscow would be considered as their willingness to return to business as usual despite the ongoing occupation of Crimea and certain regions of Donbas. We shall let Vladimir Putin celebrate his version of history in his own alternative reality.

Witold Waszczykowski

Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee

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