Elena Berezhnaya: In Order to Unite, Ukraine Must Repent for the Dead Children of Donbass

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



The Director of Institute of Legal Policy and Social Protection Elena Berezhnaya described to the correspondent of the Federal News Agency (FAN) in Kiev the situation with nationalism in the country, the information policy of local media, and the possibility of the reunification of Ukraine.

As a reminder, Elena Berezhnaya is engaged in vigorous human rights activity in Ukraine, despite threats, and attacks of neo-Nazis, she speaks in courts, defending individuals and organizations from xenophobes. The FAN already wrote how in the building of the District administrative court of Kiev a hearing on the claim of two human rights organizations took place: “Anti-fascist human rights league” and the “Jewish human rights group” against the renaming of Vatutin Avenue into Shukhevych Avenue. Then Berezhnaya was attacked by neo-Nazis from the “Svoboda” party.

With this material FAN starts a series of interview with representatives of the Ukrainian opposition – those who still haven’t been arrested by the Kiev authorities, aren’t intimidated, and haven’t been expelled from the country by right-wing radicals.

You say that you act for a unified country. But after all your opponents – nationalists – also say that they want a unified country. What value do you put in this concept?

“Firstly, I can’t agree with you that nationalists act for a unified country. Because their appeals – that it is necessary to blockade Donbass, to not deliver anything there, their affirmations that subhumans live there, and all the rest means that they want to cut it off.”

Nationalists say that they don’t want to renounce neither Donbass nor Crimea. They want to solve the problem with force. They speak about a unified state, mononational, where everyone is Ukrainian.

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“And thus they say that they will attach Crimea! But from there we will move away from there all those who voted in a referendum. And how many are there, 96% or 98%? Sevastopol – there were different figures there, yes. Well, is it normal? It is for a unified country? People who were born in Crimea where there relatives lived, their parents who are there for many generations, and so on. And we will move them away from there?!

It is not a unified country, this is reasoning about the territory that they defined themselves, with Crimea and Donbass. But a unified country is when the inhabitants in this territory want this unification, and you want it, and you do everything in order for us to feel unified. But with such behavior towards Donbass… Tell me please, will the inhabitants of Donbass want to leave in the same country as these nationalists? I think not. It is the same for Crimea, when the nationalists cut off the electricity there, blew up the power lines – these explosions are pure acts of terrorism.”

How does the West react to such acts?

“In the German Embassy I asked a question: ‘Here in Europe if for example between France and Belgium, or between Germany and the Czech Republic, these power lines were blown up – what would it be like?’. Of course, the answer is that it would be treated as an act of terrorism – the terrorists would be found and punished seriously. While here [in Ukraine – ed] it turns out to be a feat of patriots.

It is such different concepts that lead further to an escalation of violence in our society. But if you want a unified country, do it in a different way. They should’ve said to Crimea: here is for you not only electricity, but also water, it was necessary to give everything as best as possible. Understanding that they are our brothers and our sisters, that we are uniform. But what was done and said? It was said like this: you leave from here, and we will take away the territory.”

With Donbass the situation is similar or even worse?

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“And it is the same behavior towards Donbass too. The position of nationalists is not in the interests of a unified country. In order to speak about unification it is necessary to change the information policy in the country. There are no terrorists in Crimea or Donbass, as they are called by our media. All inhabitants of Donbass, three million or three and a half, it turns out that they are all terrorists? If we have the anti-terrorist operation is ongoing there? It is necessary to change the rhetoric.

And I would propose in general to all media, to all our great officials who unleashed all of this, to start with repentance. It is with this that it should have started with – to repent, to ask for forgiveness for the children killed in Donbass. They are innocent souls, they live in the sky and they won’t rest in peace.

Until in Ukraine those who did this are punished, these souls will hang over Ukraine. And children’s souls will never allow this lawlessness to escape punishment for these murderers. Only repentance, an apology, and then to go to local residents for dialogue. While these methods, war, intimidation – it won’t work.”

You are constantly threatened. You aren’t ready to emigrate?

“Yes, nationalists all the time say to me: ‘suitcase, train station, Russia’. But for what reason do I have to leave? I was born here, grew up here, all my family up to the eleventh generation lived here. Why should I leave my native earth? Because it isn’t pleasant for someone? It isn’t pleasant that I speak Russian, that I defend legality? When our country went outside the legal course, it lost statehood. This is the most horrible we have no State because we have no law.”

After recording this interview it became known that in Croatia Elena Berezhnaya’s daughter – Irina Grigoryevna Berezhnaya – died in a road accident. Irina was a Ukrainian political and public figure, a Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of VI and VII convocations (2007 — 2014), a member of the committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine concerning justice, and a member of groups on inter-parliamentary communications with some countries.

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The Publication Federal News Agency (FNA) sends deep condolences to Elena Berezhnaya.

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