EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Ukrainian Prisoners of War as a tool of hybrid Warfare
DATE: 13:00 – 14:00, 7 November 2019
VENUE: The Henry Jackson Society, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London, SW1P 4QP
SPEAKERS: Olha Bozhko (Volynska), Hanna Ilyushchenko, Iryna Dovhan, Nadia Volkova
EVENT CHAIR: Dr Andrew Foxall
Dr Andrew Foxall: Good Afternoon everybody, welcome to The Henry Jackson Society for today’s event, discussion, on the theme of hybrid threats and the role that prisoners of war have played in the Ukrainian conflict from the very start. We’re delighted to have with us four expert speakers. I’m also delighted that, with the exception of myself, it is an all-female panel, which isn’t particularly usual in these sorts of Westminster discussions. The panellists that we have are all perfectly qualified, regrettably actually in a number of instance, to speak about this topic of prisoners of war in the Ukraine conflict. On my far right, is Nadia Volkova, who is director of the Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group. To my immediate right is Olga Bozhko, who is a journalist, writer, documentary maker, and in fact the producer of the short documentary on Unbroken Women, a couple of trailers of which we are going to start the event by showing you. To my immediate left is Hanna Ilyschenko, who is a former prisoner of war. She volunteered to serve in the Donbas battalion the summer of early 2014, and was taken prisoner shortly after. And to my far left is Iryna Dovhan, again a former prisoner of war, who at the start of the conflict helped out the Ukrainian army by delivering food, clothes, and other sort of daily needs, but was adopted in the summer of 2014 by the Vostok battalion. Both Iryna and Hanna will obviously speak from their personal experiences of what it means to be a prisoner of war in the Ukraine conflict. I would just add before we start, of course, the Ukraine conflict is now one of the longest running conflict in Europe’s 20th and 21st century history. According to official statistics, more than 13,000 civilians have been killed since it began, and it is a conflict that now, if not on a daily, certainly on a weekly basis, continues to rack up victims. It doesn’t, to my mind, garner as much attention as it certainly should, and particularly as it used to, but it’s nevertheless something that should very firmly be at the forefront of our minds, not least given that a general election is going on in this country, and issues of national and international security will no doubt be discussed as part of various campaigns. As I say, I’m absolutely delighted that we have the four speakers with us for today’s event, and we will start just with three initial clips from the film Unbroken Women. Hopefully they should work, here they are to the right.
*Film clip plays*. Ok, James, could you? There are supposed to be subtitles with this. Forgive us for the logistical hiccup. Would it be better to move on to the next video do you think?
Olha Bozhko: Yes, the next one might have the subtitles. This one should have had.
*Film clip plays*
Dr Andrew Foxall: Oh, here we are.
Olha Bozhko: The last one [inaudible] subtitles
Dr Andrew Foxall: The third and final doesn’t have subtitles.
*Film clip plays*
Dr Andrew Foxall: With obvious apologies for the issue with the subtitles, I nevertheless think that the videos give a ide, or at the very least illustrative of what the film does, and the stories that it seeks to tell. What I’d like to actually right now is invite Nadia to say a little more, not only about the film but the broader issue of Ukrainian, or prisoners of war, as part of the Ukrainian crisis. Although I would note that I am as guilty as most people as referring to this as a Ukrainian crisis, when in reality we’re talking about an illegal annexation by Russia, and an invasion of East Ukraine by Russia, as well, forgive me.
Nadia Volkova: Thank you do I need the mic or?
Dr Andrew Foxall: I think you will be fine
Nadia Volkova: Hello, thank you very much for inviting me to this event, it’s very important that you know, this issue is constantly brought up and discussed, because sometimes, we as a lawyers, represent victims of the conflict in Ukraine, sometimes can get very bogged down inside the country, and sort of live with this, you know, on our own, and without any sort of wider view from people and feedback, and also maybe some ideas on how to approach the issue of resolving this conflict, and especially in part where it concerns people’s lives. We as an organisation we are very young but we, at the moments, we handle about seventy cases of the current people who are being detained in Donbas. We’ve also represented some of the prisoners of war, who are detained in Russia, thankfully some of them have been released already, during the latest prisoner swap, and also our colleagues, and that’s how we know about the issue. Close colleagues, they work with Crimean Tartars and their families who is mainly husband and brothers and sons, also being persecuted and detained in Crimea. Obviously we have been dealing with this issue and representing these people with the past five years, more or less, but the people who we represent they were detained back in 2014, and spent years in detention, in Russian detention, and in, when it comes to Russia and Crimea, and also in Donbas. I mean, obviously we have to, now we can back and sort of look from afar at what’s been happening, and now we can state that Ukraine in many ways including this one, has been Russia’s testing ground, a battlefield for testing new hybrid methods of conducting warfare, and prisoners of war is being one of those methods. Initially if we talk about, for instance, political prisoners, obviously now it’s very well, it’s clear that basically these people have been detained in order to create a certain image of Ukraine and Russia, through propaganda, and for that they would need to, obviously, get some Ukrainians, some Ukrainian nationals, especially the politically active ones, who would support the picture that they would be trying to translate into the world, about how fascist and Nazi, and whatever other names they have been using for Ukrainians, and to describe the regime that came to power after Yanukovych’ regime, and obviously that was at the start of the war, and this was the picture that they were trying to describe Ukraine with, and to portray. We have couple of people we were representing, they were Ukrainian patriots, so called, well many referred to them as Ukrainian patriots, but they just ordinary citizens who were actively, active politically, in a way. So both of them were detained in, one of them was allegedly kidnapped from Ukrainian territory, and then another one was, he met a woman and he went to Russia to meet with her, and obviously he was detained back then, and later it turned out the Russian woman as an FSB agent. So both of them were accused of the crimes they allegedly committed in Chechnya, it was an, a very clear show trial, and they were taken to different detention places around Russia, severely tortured, and unfortunately, I mean they’ve been released right now, during the last prisoner swap, but one of them unfortunately has suffered such a psychological breakdown that he is constantly in and out of the mental hospital, and his mental health has been severely damaged, as a result of the torture and the pressure that he had been subjected to all this time. So that’s one part of the sort of, the method of the warfare. Another part with Crimean Tartars, what we’ve discovered is that basically they, these are people who very sort of, free-loving, will loving people, and they will constantly fight for their freedom, they have done it for, throughout their existence, as a minority, and I think when Russia came to Crimea and annexed it they sort of remained at the same sort of level of fighting, but obviously, it kind of spoils Russia’s plans, and they don’t want any distractions, they were trying to, trying to do at the moment with Crimea is install very sort of Russian regime, where everybody is an abiding citizen, and they sort of, do not show any signs of democratic free will. As soon as there is a sign of this around, or there is a whiff of this, they immediately jump on that person and they would try to make them quiet. That’s why the constantly illegal searches, all these illegal detentions, these people get put away if they are very active, like there was an instance with [inaudible] or Alexander [inaudible], you know the story, I don’t’ need to rehash it. With Donbas, it is a very sort of complicated and surreal picture, because on the one hand there are sort of local authorities which are responsible for the situation there, especially with the prisoners of war, but it seems, obviously, initially they were handled by the Russian authorities but right now they seem to be, have gone on their own, and they have become more and more creative with who they detain, how they detain, and how they treat these people, but it seems to me that, and to our organisation that the main purpose of the authorities to detain prisoners of war at the moment is just to create a so-called prisoner swap fund, so that they can not just swap prisoners but also actually demand and get the concessions that they are looking for , so they are kind of like a bargaining chip in their hand at the moment. All of these people, as you’ve seen from the video, especially, I mean these are the very telling examples, but all of these people have been subjected to severe torture, they have been kept in appalling conditions, and obviously there is a certain, in Donbas for instance, there is another risk that there is sort of a political system in place, so called political system, and they have their law enforcement authorities, and many people are subjected to their trials, so-called trials again, and they have actually a death penalty now, according to their criminal code and criminal procedure code. I don’t think that any one of the prisoners have been charged with the death penalty yet, but they will obviously be charged and sentenced to more than fifteen years of imprisonment, and this is an extra pressure to put on when the political sides negotiating, so say, you know, basically he is a criminal in our state, and you know, that’s why, you know, you need to take that into account as well. So sort of also a tool in a way. What we are trying to do is use the available legal instruments to defend these people. We go to the European Court of human rights, we send submissions to the international criminal court, and also we alert authorities, local authorities, national authorities. Unfortunately Ukrainian legal system is not capable of processing these types of crimes yet, I mean obviously the cases are registered, you know, everything is being put through the system but Ukraine is not able to process these types of cases on its own at the moment, because obviously we consider them as war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and the level of legal support that needs to be put in place is, unfortunately the national level is not sufficient enough. Also we are hoping that, there is a wider issue which needs to be resolved first is the question of jurisdiction, whether Russia is responsible for this conflict, unfortunately there hasn’t been a legal decision yet, and it is the greater stumbling block for us at the moment for these types of cases as well. That is it from me.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Thank you, Nadia. Very interesting and very comprehensive overview both of what you do, but also the challenges that you’re facing. Olga, please.
Olga Bozhko: Thank you, thank you very much, to everyone for coming. I’m the director of the documentary, and to be here to present this film, to show the real situation with former prisoners of war in Ukraine, and actual prisoners of war in this film, we are show the stories of three women, who were strongly tortured, in [inaudible] for their Ukrainian position, and for helping the Ukrainian army. Two of these three women are civilian citizens, so they didn’t do any crimes, so what they did, they really wanted to support Ukriane, Ukrainian army, and they experienced, so big, so big tortures and violence, and that is very necessary to say that, behind these women in Ukraine there are more than three thousand former prisoners, who were released from captivity. Now we can also say about more than two hundred prisoners of war who remain in captivity now, and it’s very important to say that they don’t have access to fair trial, don’t necessarily medical assistance, legal assistance, so any access to them are from us as human rights organisation, and important human rights protection groups each, and to be collecting evidence of war crimes, we have been preparing the complaints for the European Court of Human Rights, from such women like Anna, and Lena, and when I started working at human rights protection group, I realised that this issue is not covered, and a lot of people in Ukraine don’t even know about this issue. So we are here to ask you, to raise the issue of Ukrainian prisoners of war in any way, because it’s really important to continue sanctions against Russia for duration, as a country who, that [inaudible] international agreements, and freedoms, and also I think that the other protagonists can say more, and because they are living evidence of Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine. Thank you.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Thank you very much indeed, Olga, what I’m now going to do is give, highlight Iryna the opportunity just to say a few words before we go into a broader Q and A and discussion. They may speak through a translator, we’ll see how their English goes to begin with, but [inaudible]
Hanna Ilyushchenko: (Through translator) Hello my name is Hanna, I am from Odessa. Ok, I will try to speak up. Hello, my name is Anna, I am from Odessa in 2014 I joined to volunteer battalion, Donbas, and we fought many battles, and one of them was in Ilovaisk where I had been wounded six times. I received six injuries. So after Ilovaisk I spent five days I captivity, and the situation was fifty-fifty, it wasn’t clear what would happen, whether they would decide to kill me or they might decide to exchange me for someone. So they decided to exchange me. It’s been five years since the war started, and sadly the prisoners of war still don’t have much support from the state, they need medical support, mental health support, rehabilitation, nothing of this is available. And we decided to raise awareness about the issue of prisoners of war, and we are witnesses, we can testify that indeed the Russian army is present on Ukrainian territory. Many of my brothers-in-arms, they ended up in captivity, five years ago, and until now, we don’t know what has happened to them. Therefore, we would specifically like to raise an issue of prisoners of war. Sorry, specifically, those who are military soldiers. There are lots of organisations who are trying to find out what happened to these people, how they ended up in captivity, but they, practically we don’t have much help from the state. So we just appeal to you to help us spread the word about this issue, to remind the world what war is going on, and there are many prisoners of war in need of help right now. And we would like everyone who can to help release the prisoners of war immediately.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Thank you Anna, Iryna.
Iryna Dovhan: (Through translator) For the last fifty-three years I lived, sorry, I have spent fifty-three years in Donetsk, of my life, our region was relatively happy and content in peaceful Ukraine, but in 2014 it became obvious that the Russian propaganda has been intensified, that in my region more often one would see armed, not armed, people in camouflage in Donetsk region. Many people were confused, couldn’t understand what would end up with. My other, my female friends and I were compelled to do something to help our country, we felt that we need to act in order to save the situation, and help the army, the volunteers with food and other humanitarian supplies. I was arrested for doing that. Mainly these were people of certain ethnic origin, and they’ve called themselves allies of Putin, and they belong to the battalion Vostock. I won’t give you too many details about the way I was tortured while I was imprisoned for five days, in captivity for five days, at some point I was taken to the city centre where I was placed next to the post and people, the passers-by would humiliate and hit me, and only, the only thing that helped me survive was the fact that there was a Brazilian, and a photographer, who took a few pictures, and they went viral, and that’s how it became possible for me to be released. I must say I didn’t come here to talk about myself, my main objective was to tell you that there are still many people, more than two hundred people, as far as we know, on the occupied territories, and they need help. I should tell you that in Donetsk region, in which is in Europe, there is a concentration camp working, its name is isolation. It’s a territory that is surrounded by wire, and not a single international organisation had access to this territory. I have appealed to many organisations, including UN, the Red Cross, [inaudible] and every time the answer was we can’t help you because we just don’t have access to this place. They also don’t have any access to place where the prisoners are detained near Donetsk, neither they have any access to more colonies (inaudible) and colony number thirty-two in [inaudible]. So I repeat, none of the international organisations [inaudible] there are hundreds of women like me, an eighty-year-old [inaudible] is detained presently in Donetsk. She was arrested when she just delivered a parcel for her son, simply because of her religious preference, she is a Baptist. She, the eighty-year-old imprisoned lady, she is lost any hope, she doesn’t get up, but she still keeps hoping it will be possible to release her son, who is handicapped, and who is also imprisoned for his pro-Ukrainian stance. One other detainees is, who is, Galina, hundred and seventy-two centimetres high, is her height, and she only weighs forty-nine kilograms, and she nearly died twice because of hyper, because she is ill. It’s impossible to pass any medicines to her, and she doesn’t receive help. Thank you.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Thank you, you’ve heard, I think, quite powerful, if not humbling testimony from Iryna and Hannah. We’ll now move into a, we’ll now have rather, twenty minutes or so for Q and A, and discussion. As usual, if you’d like to ask a question simply raise your hand, and I’ll come to you. If I may though want to use the chair’s prerogative and ask the first question, and I suppose it would be to Nadia. My question is this, a new government was clearly elected in Kiev this year. One of the main points that Zelensky made on the campaign trail was that he would find an end to the conflict in the Donbass, and he’s since announced a series of measures towards achieving that. Have you noticed any significant difference in the way that he approaches the issues of the POW’s versus how Poroshenko approached the issue? Does he take it more seriously, less seriously?
Nadia Volkova: Well, I think at the moment he’s taken it more seriously. I think the latest prisoner swap is a testament to that, it’s just a question of how much he’s willing to give up out of the broader, it’s a very delicate balance, out of the national interest. But, of course, if we are talking from the human rights perspective nothing can be more important than human life, and human health. So in this regard it’s fine. How I can also tell that he’s approaching it more seriously, because, we’ve been campaigning throughout this year for granting these people, these prisoners of war, the civilian detainees, the political prisoners, their status. It’s just that in Ukrainian legislation it’s very difficult to defend these people because they are nobodies, they are just ordinary citizens, they are different to me or any ordinary Ukrainian. There is no separate category of people whose rights are being violated in the course of armed conflict. I know that this week there is going to be a discussion of a draft law, on the status. I’m not sure about the quality of this law but hopefully it will do the job, at least it will be a start to further more concrete developments and steps that the government undertakes. On the other hand, if we are talking about immediate releases, I know that with the prisoners in Donbas, the situation is very shaky and unstable, and it is very difficult to sort of put your finger on what exactly is going on, because one day they are say that we are preparing the prisoner swap, it’s going to be the biggest yet, and next thing you know nobody is talking about it because they can’t agree on the terms. So it’s constantly going back and forth.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Thank you. As I say, if anybody has any questions just raise your, raise your hand. The question at the back, blue shirt, if you could just introduce yourself.
Audience member 1: Simon Clarke from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting. A question for everyone really, all four of you touched on it at the beginning, the election coming up, what would the panel, what would you like to see done in terms of practical next steps, the Geneva convention is clearly being broken, for example restricting access for the Red Cross, for example, or does that legitimise the wider [inaudible].
Dr Andrew Foxall: Yeah, it’s a very good question actually, in practical terms what can we in the West, as we’re having this discussion in London, we in the UK do, to help, both I suppose in a legal sense, in the case of trying to garner greater attention, for what’s going on there, but also in practical terms for the survivors, and the detainees themselves. So, perhaps you would each like to speak to the various aspects of that question. Would you like to start again Nadia?
Nadia Volkova: Ok, yes, from obviously our perspective it would be important to put pressure on the Ukrainian government as well to actually adopt the necessary legislation, and also on the international institutions as much as is possible to actually be more efficient in their decision making, particularly when it comes to, for instance, the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe, I know the situation there is very controversial at the moment, with Russia being returned, and returned to pace and with their influence within the organisation, but also we have to keep in mind that this is all political gaming, and obviously that the more pressure is put on Russian Federation and its supporters in this regard the better.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Olga, from a public relations point of view, what can we in the West do to help?
Olha Bozhko: I agree with Nadia, and as I said it’s very important to increase awareness about former prisoners of war and about actual prisoners of war in Ukraine issue, and I thank you very much for position UK in continuing sanctions against Russia Federation, and it’s very important to do same way, because I think our opinion is the time when Russia wanted to show the world in Ukraine there is no war, no problem of prisoners of war, but as you can see it’s a really deep issue and so it’s necessary to put pressure at every opportunity on Russian politicians, on Russian officials, because problem exists, and I want to add some words about the legislation, you have such situation when we have a bill, and it passed the first reading this summer, and this bill will take not only official status to prisoners of war, but also some social and medical and legal assistance, and help to relatives of prisoners of war, so a lot of [inaudible] when working on Bill, and continue working on it, and actually next week will be open discussion, so I think even this events in the UK may help to increase awareness, to push on Ukrainian parliamentary members, something so thank you for any help.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Thank you, Olha and Iryna, I suppose what can the West and the UK in particular, or even your own government do to help you and your fellow current and former detainees?
Iryna Dovhan: (through translator) It’s very important to have media attention, it’s very important for us to deliver a message that there is war going on in Ukraine, and it’s not a civil war, it’s a Russian aggression. So we just need to publicise this as much as we can. I would like to, I would hope that what I told you, will evoke compassion, and that you will understand how strongly I feel about helping people who are treated like animals, and I would like to repeat that this is happening in Europe, and this is not a much talked, this topic is not much talked about and I hope that you will just help me, help us, to deliver this message, that people need help, and at every opportunity we would be grateful if you could just mention this.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Thank you. Question, gentleman at the back please.
Audience Member 2: Thanks, my name is [inaudible] I’m working for the Financial Times. Thank you so much for your very moving testimonies about the [inaudible] prisoners in the occupied territories in [inaudible]. I wanted to ask you about the role of women in society in Donbass, and how that’s being shaped by the conflict, and how the last time I was in Donbass it was 2013 before the conflict started, I could see there was a very high male mortality rate due to alcoholism and various industrial accidents, women seemed to be pretty much running the day to day society there, although the men were still in the top government jobs, and I would like [inaudible] to comment and that and how the picture has developed in Donbass in the occupied territories, bearing in mind that a lot of people have left those territories, and people we see as the spokesmen tend to be men, what is the role of women in society behind the occupied territories, and the men that we say, one of our pannelists mentioned that the soldiers came in from Chechyna, from [inaudible] and elsewhere, the men that we see in positions of power, they pretty much imported form the Russian federation, or is there local representation?
Iryna Dovhan: Thank you, two, I think, very interesting questions, two very interesting points, the first about the role of women in society in the Donbass, and secondly, about the role of the influx of individuals from the Russian Federation, or elsewhere and the role that they play in the so-called peoples republics. Shall we start, if you would be willing. Feel free to answer one or both.
OK, I want to maybe answer second part of this question, do you hear me?. Thank you very much. Sorry for my poor English maybe I try to express my opinion in this way. So, we tried to give a voice to women in our film because I really believe that the part of women in the war in Ukraine is very, very important because, from women [inaudible] volunteers who were helping to Ukrainian army, are so many women’s, though they are big power among volunteers. As we can see among your organisation are protecting former prisoners of war, who are prisoners of war are a lot of women, and in our documentary it was interesting, it was easy to me to show it in every part of the video, we have one main protagonist, and one human right activist women who are really active in this way, to help such women, and to express the opinion and to show real, to tell about real situation in Ukraine, so of course I think that women are the more vulnerable and especially civilian women, civilian prisoners of war are more unprotected in Ukraine. When we are talking about the military prisoners of war, they have some help from the state because they have official status as military, not prisoners of war, and they have some social help, but when we are talking about civilian prisoners of war, they don’t have nothing, nothing help. But in other case, our protagonists, from Donbass, they lost almost everything, their housing, their business, are left on occupied territories, so these people really need help from the state, and we as human rights organisations also raise this issue, and talk about it.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Thank you, Iryna perhaps, given that you said you’d lived in Donetsk for over fifty years, you’re well placed to compare how the role of women in society has changed since 2014.
Iryna Dovhan: Perhaps, when I lived in peaceful Ukraine I was rather indifferent about football, or racing competitions, but when in 2014, when the war started, I couldn’t remain indifferent and wanted to help because it was a question of allowing my family, my children, my grandchildren to live in a free country, so when this conflict started, imposed by a neighbouring country, I just thought that I have to be, to take an active position. Every woman is trying to protect her children, her grandchildren, and so it’s only natural they’d want to support their country at such a dramatic historic time, and of course I must mention that very many women have given up their lives to do so.
Hanna Ilyushchenko: (through translator) I would like to say that in my view there is no gender issue when it comes to war. Women, as well as men, they just feel compelled to defend their country, and we can draw a historical parallel with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the UPA, where women together with men were defending their country, so for me, yes, there is just a, it is completely equal, between men and women when it comes to defending the country. In my battalion there were seven women, and of course nobody forced them to join the volunteer battalion, and they decided to help in whatever way they can. Some had medical training, and some just took arms in their hands.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Do you want to?
Hanna Ilyushchenko: Yes, I want to say a little bit more about Iryna and, Hanna because they continue help soldiers, former prisoners of war, Hanna did a lot of work with rehabilitation of veterans and for her own brothers in battalions [inaudible] came to Donbass and did some beautician procedure for women in Ukrainian army, and also a big part of Iryna’s work is she is flying around the world about her experience, and also she is trying to help prisoners of war on occupied territory, and she does all possible and impossible, to send there some medical, some medicines, and some food, clothes, so it is very difficult in our conditions doing this, and Iryna did.
Dr Andrew Foxall: I’m aware of what time it is, beyond five-past two, however, there are a number of questions, so what I’m going to do is take them all at the same time please, we’ll start here and then move slowly back. Please.
Audience member 2: Thank you [inaudible] if you have any thought on Donald Trump Ukriane scandal, he asked your president to announce an investigation in the Vice-president of the US and his sons
Dr Andrew Foxall: : Ok, thank you, question about Ukraine and there’s a question here?
Audience Member 3: My name is [inaudible] from London [inaudible]. I’d like to just sort of thank you all for bringing this important topic to light, unfortunately as you said there is not enough media coverage on this issue, and you have been victims of war times, potentially, and I sincerely hope the perpetrators of those crimes one day will be brought to justice, and not only those Russian soldiers who have tortured you, but also those who sent them there, so specifically President Putin and all his criminal regime, that one day they will be brought to justice for all the war crimes they perpetrated in Ukraine, for shooting down MH17, not only in Ukraine but Syria, and other places as well. So I wanted to ask whether you have testified in any of the international courts and in any criminal proceeding in the Hague, with regards to your personal cases, because it’s really important that a database of criminal cases, with regards to crimes that were committed against you, so that at one point justice can be served.
Dr Andrew Foxall: : Thank you, and there was a third question I think here.
Audience member 4: right, so to finish your question about one of the favourite Russian propaganda theme, about the Russian language and Ukrainian language, I spotted that both of you spoke perfectly in Russian, and that such a good indication [inaudible] just wanted to ask you how to do feel about it and how [inaudible]
Dr Andrew Foxall: : Thank you. You’re welcome to ask a question.
Audience member 5: [inaudible] I was just wondering if you could elaborate on what kind of narratives are present in the Russia media [inaudible]
Dr Andrew Foxall: thank you, so we have four quite different questions, feel free to answer one or two, or all or none of them. The last one is about the use of prisoners of war in the information warfare, and the information environment, and how that affects narratives about Ukraine, there was a question about the difference between the Russian and Ukrainian language use, and the extent to which actually the two languages coexist quite peacefully on the territory. There was a question about the extent to which you have testified in various court cases, although, perhaps that comes back to a point you were earlier making about the various court cases that relate to the prisoners of war issue. And finally, the question about US-Ukrainian relations and the current controversy surrounding Donald Trump. A little outside of the topic, admittedly, as I say, you don’t have to answer all of them, but perhaps we’d start with
Nadia Volkova: Ok, if I could get the elaboration on the angle, how the Trump Zelenski issue is relevant and unrelevant to the
Dr Andrew Foxall: Or perhaps just answer one of the other questions
Nadia Volkova: Ok well, the narrative, ok well I can definitely talk about the two cases we handled (inaudible) cases the ones who were accused of the Chechnyan crimes, he crimes that they committed during the first Chechnyan war, there was couple of big sort of serious short about how they, a reconstruction about how allegedly they killed the soldiers and they were all in the Chechnyan conflict, and how they had an attack on there, apart from representing them on the international court we also handled heir cases at the national level when they taking place in Russia So when we find, what we do s we find local lawyers who handle their cases at the national level, and there was a big TV programme about these two lawyers who were representing the, also the so-called war criminals because in Russia that’s how they were labelled as, and basically it was all broadcast in Chechnyan TV and probably some Russian channels, which put them in a greater risk as well, and I think these people most used for propaganda inside the country mostly maintain the degree of the hatred towards Ukraine and that’s justify their actions against Ukraine, so that within the Russian society, there is no doubt the regime is acting correctly. That’s the most important starting point, and then obviously they spread this garbage around the world, but I guess it’s less convincing now, after all this Salisbury episode and the Western world is seeing through better through them, but for them it’s not as important like I said to maintain this level of propaganda as it is within the country itself so they don’t doubt the regime.
Dr Andrew Foxall: thank you, if I could ask you, I’m conscious of the time, so if I could ask you to be brief in your response.
Nadia Volkova: Ok, I will try to answer about Russian propaganda. So Russian propaganda is trying to show these people like fascist, like spies, or killers of civilians, but we know that the public know that prisoners of war are among journalists, our teachers, and other well educated Ukrainian people, and also so in Iryna’s case, Russian propaganda is trying to show like Iryna is fake, so after Iryna is testifying [inaudible] big audiences, some propaganda news appear, and they try to show that it is not true, to spoil the reputation of Iryna, so it shows what we are doing is very important, what Iryna is doing, and Anna, [inaudible] evidence, truth.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Thank you, I regret that perhaps briefly if you could offer a response.
Iryna Dovhan: In the last five years I have testified at different levels as to what I have had to survive, live through. Every time, there is a lot of, afterwards, there is a lot trolling social media. For example, on the occupied territories, there was a story spread around about me, that I was responsible for marking different points in town including schools and these, these specific markers would help the Ukrainian army to identify the target, and hit [inaudible]. It might seem like a story that is impossible to believe in, but in fact there are quite a lot of local people in occupied territories who just took this in as truth. Ukraine has been collecting evidence about the crimes that have been committed and continue to be committed, and this book represents, it’s called war without rules. There is evidence of one hundred seventy cases that took place in 2014 and 2015, and so this evidence is collected by public organisation.
Dr Andrew Foxall: I think we’ll have to finish
Translator: Just, Iryna also gave some evidence at The Hague so Iryna visited The Hague, and met the prosecutor there, and this was a collective hearing into the cases of sexual violence.
Dr Andrew Foxall: Thank you, we’ve overrun rather significantly, you have my apologies for that, but nevertheless a, important to hear the testimony of two of the survivors of, as we mentioned earlier, one of the longest running conflicts in Europe. It has been deeply, deeply humbling to hear about your experiences, but also in many respects, very inspiring about how you’ve responded to that and the work that you’re doing to try and maintain interest both in Ukraine, but also more broadly to what has happened. Very, very best of luck going forward, please join with me in thanking our speakers today,