Even a Nobel Peace Prize winner demands battle tanks for Ukraine!
In December, Ukraine’s Civil Liberties Center, which collects evidence of Russian war crimes, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The chair of the organization, the Ukrainian human rights lawyer Oleksandra Matwijtschuk (39), is now putting pressure on the federal government to quickly deliver battle tanks to her country.
In an interview with BILD am SONNTAG, Matwijtschuk explains why she wants to set up an international criminal tribunal for Putin and his government and what she expects from Olaf Scholz.
BILD am SONNTAG: What will you tell the heads of government at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week about your research into war crimes?
Matwijtschuk: “All of the violence we see in Ukraine is the result of the impunity that Russia has enjoyed for decades. Russian troops have committed crimes everywhere: in Chechnya, Moldova, Georgia, Mali, Libya and Syria. It was of no consequence. And now they think they can do whatever they want. They don’t even hide it. It has become part of Russian culture. And that is dangerous – not only for Ukraine. Also for countries that could be possible next targets.”
When did you first document war crimes in Ukraine?
Matwijtschuk: “When the war started in February 2014. We were the first human rights organization to send monitors to Crimea and the Donbas. We wanted to know what was going on and learned about the first cases of Russian aggression against civilians: murder of civilians, torture, sexual violence, brutal arrests and disappearances.”
How can the perpetrators be held responsible for the war crimes?
Matwijtschuk: “Ukraine cannot resolve this issue alone. The international community must find a solution to the question of punishment. The idea of international law is that it is the responsibility of the world community to punish such crimes. From February 24, 2022 to date, we have documented more than 29,000 war crimes cases. We need international courts to work with the Ukrainian authorities.”
How do you already support the investigations of the Ukrainian courts?
Matwijtschuk: “We collect evidence and information about war crimes. We’re sending teams into the contested regions to talk to the victims. We check videos, photos and other material for authenticity. The question is who are we doing this for? We need to find solid evidence to convince the international community and its judges of our research in the future. That’s a lot of work.”
They want to set up a war crimes tribunal for Putin and his government – even if it is still in office. How can this succeed?
Matwijtschuk: “We need the support of the democratic world. Putin wants to convince the world that democracy and human rights are not real values that nobody can protect in war. Putin despises all international treaties. We have to show him that they work. The principle of the rule of law is essential. Justice is possible, even if it comes late.”
Could the existence of such a court also have an impact on the course of the war?
Matwijtschuk: “Clear. I’ve been documenting war crimes for over eight years. The Russians are confident they will get away with it. If we start building a tribunal, it could send a strong signal to Moscow. That could alleviate the brutality and save lives.”
How do you assess the contribution of Germany and Europe to the defense of Ukraine?
Matwijtschuk: “The only way to end the war is to liberate Ukraine. That is why Ukraine asked for military help. Putin does not need negotiations. For him, dialogue is a sign of weakness. Peace cannot be achieved if the attacked country stops fighting because it would mean occupation. The injustice would continue.”
Germany has opted for the delivery of “Marder” tanks, battle tanks like the “Leopard 2” should still not come. Could they be part of the solution?
Matwijtschuk: “Putin will only stop if someone stops him. He will always keep going if nobody stops him. I really can’t understand why Ukraine isn’t getting modern tanks and planes that we’ve been asking for for months. We are ready to fight for our freedom and democracy. So many are dying, but we’re not giving up. Every new piece of equipment, every tank can save lives. Every hesitation brings death every day.”
What do you say to people who want to solve the war at the negotiating table?
Matwijtschuk: “It’s nothing more than wishful thinking. Can you imagine Putin acknowledging mistakes and withdrawing his troops? Admitting to crimes? That Russia is ready to pay reparations? What should be the desirable outcomes that could come out of the negotiations? Ukraine could only give up. But we will never abandon our brothers and sisters in the occupied territories.”
What will you say to Olaf Scholz when you meet him in Davos?
Matwijtschuk: “Through economic cooperation, Germany has encouraged Russia to take the next step towards escalation. This is why Putin believes that human rights are “fake” – because the West has not defended them in Ukraine. I will remind Mr. Scholz of the West’s shared responsibility to prove to the world that Putin was wrong.”
What gives you and Ukraine the strength to resist?
Matwijtschuk: “I don’t wish any country to go through such a war. But it allows us to evoke our best virtues: helping each other, being brave, fighting for our values. So many material things are no longer important. We learned what really matters in life. And we defend that.”
This is how women support the defense of Ukraine
Ukrainian director Hanna Kopylova made the documentary “Oh, Sister” about the role of women in the fight against the Russian war of aggression. The film also accompanies Matviychuk at work.
The Union “ United for Ukraine“ had initiated the production of the film and shown it in the Berlin State Opera.