One year ago, Russia launched its massive invasion of Ukraine. The “hybrid warfare” of the previous eight years had turned into a full-blown aggressive war at a scale unseen in Europe since 1939.

Both the global community and the Russian civil society failed to prevent this invasion.

Since 24/02/2022 tens of thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands have been injured, millions have been displaced and have become refugees. Cities and villages have been destroyed, hundreds of thousands of families have been separated, tens of thousands of Ukranian children have been taken to Russia. Abductions, torture and murders have been recorded in the occupied territories.

Nobody knows how much more Ukraine will have to sacrifice. There is probably not a single person in that country who has not been affected or traumatized by the war. This is a horrendous price that Ukraine has to pay in order to preserve its independence and the right to liberty.

The main revelation of this sorrowful year is that Ukraine has survived. The Blitzkrieg planned by Putin did not succeed. Ukrainian citizens of all origins and religions united to defend their country with profound courage.

Ukraine has helped the world realize that most countries share more important values than oil and gas. The international community has shown unprecedented unity in its desire to help Ukraine defeat and punish the aggressor. We believe that this solidarity and synergy of action by governments and societies worldwide will bring an end to the war and will lead to establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the military aggression and innumerable crimes committed during this war.

One more outcome of this year is that the massive warfare has brought Russia to the brink of disaster. It is no longer a vibrant, modern and dynamic nation: its future is now in doubt. The very name “Russia” which was associated with hope and sympathy when Perestroika began, these days is synonymous with horror and crime. Putin’s actions have revived the fear of a nuclear catastrophe that seemed to have been forgotten for the last 30 years. Russia as a country is being increasingly identified with Putin’s regime which is based on election fraud, suppression of human rights and complete destruction of all civil liberties. The ongoing political persecutions may be compared in its scope and cruelty to those used against dissidents in the late Soviet era. The voices of those who are against the war (they are at least 20% even according to the official statistics which are believed to be manipulated) are totally unheard both in the Parliament and in the media. But the mere existence of these 20% gives us hope that Russia still has a future.

“The morality-based choice ultimately turns out to be the most pragmatic”, these words by Andrey Sakharov might as well have been written today.

February 24, 2023.

Board of the International Memorial (dissolved by the Russian authorities in 2022)

Illustration by Liliya Matveyeva