Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in the op-ed section are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the views of the Kyiv Independent.
On May 8, the world honors the memory of those who sacrificed their lives defending the world from Nazi German dictatorship. This victory of the Allied forces laid the foundation for the modern rules-based international order, ensuring equal rights for every country and people.
Nonetheless, 78 years after the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime, the echoes of those dark times reverberate in our world today through Vladimir Putin's genocidal regime and Russia’s attempt to destroy Ukraine and reestablish a Russian empire that resembles the Soviet Union.
If we allow Russia’s actions to go unpunished, it paves the way for tyrants around the world to make a significant push to destabilize our way of life and threaten our common values. Just as Nazi Germany’s crimes had to be exposed and punished, so too must the crimes of Putin’s Russia.
Ukrainians who worked as teachers, mechanics, lawyers, electricians, or businesspeople were suddenly forced to learn to become soldiers and take up arms against one of the largest militaries on Earth. Innocent civilians went from planning their baby’s first birthday to planning their route out of the country. Thousands upon thousands have been killed simply because Russia yearns to destroy the Ukrainian state and deny the existence of the Ukrainian nation.
Russia has committed unspeakable war crimes and human rights abuses. Soldiers of the regular Russian army and Wagner Group mercenaries have carried out mass shootings, tortures, and rapes of civilians in cities such as Bucha, Izium, and Mariupol. These crimes together with the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children are manifestations of Russia’s genocidal policy – a genocide that many legislatures have correctly recognized as such.
The goal of Russia's invasion is not merely territorial conquest, but the elimination of Ukrainian national identity and the genocide of the Ukrainian people.
To justify its aggression, Russia relies on a policy of distorting historical facts, manipulating the memory of the victory over Nazism in World War II to promote militarism and justify its war against Ukraine. Russia uses the date of May 9 to misrepresent itself as a liberator to whitewash the horrific crimes of Soviet Communist colonialism and justify its own war against Ukraine.
The litany of crimes committed by Russia and the ongoing human rights atrocities being committed in occupied territories of Ukraine make any concession short of total liberation unconscionable. Any Ukrainians abandoned to Russian occupation would surely be persecuted and destroyed, and any territorial concessions to the Russians will be exploited for further, future aggression.
Just as Hitler did not stop at Czechoslovakia, Putin will not stop at eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Let us not forget the apologists who argued that, if Ukraine concedes Crimea and Donbas to Putin, he’ll leave the rest of the country alone.
Crimes that go unpunished will be repeated. It is crucial that a United Nations international war crimes tribunal investigate, prosecute, and punish Russian crimes against Ukraine.
As we demand accountability for Russia's crimes, we also must address the pervasive disinformation and propaganda that the Kremlin employs to distort the truth and manipulate global perceptions. By exposing and countering these falsehoods, we can weaken the foundations of Russia's hybrid warfare and diminish its capacity to wage war on Ukraine and other nations.
Educating the international community about the reality of Russia's actions in Ukraine is an essential step in building a coalition of nations united against aggression and tyranny. Through diplomatic and economic pressure, we can force the Russian government to abandon its imperial ambitions and embrace the values of peace, cooperation, and mutual respect that underpin the rules-based international order.
It is our responsibility as global citizens to stand up against tyranny and oppression, wherever it may arise. By acting against Russia's genocidal war in Ukraine, we reaffirm our commitment to the cause of peace, justice, and human dignity, and we honor the memory of those who fought for these ideals in the past. Let us be unwavering in our pursuit of justice and let the cry for justice reverberate across the world, so that the horrors of this war may never be repeated.
On May 9, as Russians attempt to celebrate their “victory day” and memorialize their “immortal regiment,” the civilized world must shame Russia and not allow their propagandists to portray them as liberators. This date is fittingly branded #RussianShameDay and should be used as a day to tell the truth about the unimaginable crimes committed by Russia in its unprovoked genocidal war against the Ukrainian people.
The global community must unite to spread the truth, debunk Russia’s lies and disinformation, and expose and punish the evil that Russia has brought to Ukraine, and to the world.