On the 81st anniversary of the Babyn Yar tragedy, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak held a video conference with representatives of Jewish human rights organizations.
The meeting was joined by: Soviet dissident, Israeli statesman and politician of Ukrainian origin, Knesset member, chairman of the executive board of the Jewish Agency for Israel and chairman of the supervisory board of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center Natan Sharansky; Canadian politician, parliamentarian, ex-Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada in 2003-2006 Irwin Cotler; Canadian investor, entrepreneur, human rights activist and head of the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights, who works in Ukraine, Jay Rosenzweig; President and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, member of the Canadian delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Michael Levitt.
The interlocutors discussed the importance of preserving the memory of the victims of the Babyn Yar tragedy and holding Russia accountable for the terrible crimes against humanity it is committing today in Ukraine.
"Decades after, hordes of murderers infected with the ideology of hatred returned to Ukraine. This time they came from the east, not from the west, they speak a different language, they have a different chieftain, but they have the same goal - to subjugate and destroy entire nations," emphasized Andriy Yermak.
The current generation of Ukrainians feels the pain of the Babyn Yar tragedy extremely deeply, as we are experiencing the horrors of military aggression, he noted.
"We ourselves became witnesses of hell - here and now. As in the 41st, thousands of people are dying today just because they belong to the wrong people, from their (the aggressor's - ed.) point of view. The tragedies in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izyum and dozens of other cities make the tragedy in Babyn Yar extremely close to modern Ukraine. The pain from this old scar was intensified by new wounds. We will never forget Babyn Yar. It is a place of remembrance for people of many nationalities and religions. They are united by the fact that they are all residents of Ukraine who faced absolute evil," said the Head of the President's Office.
He recalled that this year, with the beginning of the full-scale invasion by Russia, new victims appeared in Babyn Yar: in March, five people, including a child, were killed by a missile attack by the aggressor.
According to the Head of the Office of the President, today Babyn Yar is a reminder not only of previous, but also of modern crimes against humanity, which cannot be forgotten or forgiven.
Andriy Yermak invited human rights defenders to join the work of the group working on the creation of a special international tribunal on the crime of aggression against Ukraine. Russia should be held accountable not only for war crimes and crimes against humanity, but also for the act of aggression against our state, he believes.
The Head of the President's Office also urged those present to insist on a tough reaction of the world community to Russia's holding of illegal "referenda" in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and to attempts to annex them.
"A tough response is needed - not just to condemn, but to make it clear what will happen next," he stressed.
Andriy Yermak emphasized that no actions of Russia will stand in the way of Ukraine's struggle for its freedom and territorial integrity.
"We will fight until our victory, because it is important not only for those who live in Ukraine today, but also in the name of those who gave their lives, whom we remember and honor. Criminals must bear responsibility to the whole civilized world," the Head of the President's Office summarized.
The representatives of Jewish human rights organizations, for their part, emphasized the importance of preserving the memory not only of the innocent victims of World War II, but also of modern Ukrainians. The President of the Russian Federation and the entire top Russian leadership must be held accountable for the crimes against humanity they commit in Ukraine. Human rights defenders expressed their support for the creation of a special international tribunal regarding the crime of aggression against Ukraine in order to bring the leadership of the Russian Federation to justice.
"I am sure that Putin will be defeated. It is very important to establish an international court for crimes against humanity committed by the leadership of Russia. This is genocide, because they decided which nation should exist and which should not," said Natan Sharansky.
He also added that the coordinated work of many leaders and lawyers is necessary to condemn the terrible crimes against humanity committed by the Russian leadership.
Canadian politician Irwin Cotler, for his part, noted: "The creation of a special tribunal for Russia's crimes against Ukraine is a necessary and urgent step that must be taken to make the Russian leadership responsible for this aggression in the same way that they will be responsible for crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide. I hope the international community will start moving in this direction."