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Ukraine’s government has taken note of South Africa’s muted response to the continuing war in Ukraine. Speaking to BizNews on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum 2022 in Davos, Switzerland, Ukrainian member of parliament and chairperson of the committee on Ukraine’s integration into the EU, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, said that by SA refusing to condemn Russia, “it is taking the side of an aggressor, and a brutal power”. – Michael Appel
Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze on whether there is room for neutrality in this war
I cannot understand how one can stay neutral if it’s the war of the world and anti-world. If it’s the war of humanity and anti-humanity. By the way, I believe South Africa doesn’t stay neutral because it didn’t vote, even for the basic resolution of the UN General Assembly that requested Russians to immediately withdraw from our territory. So, that is not even neutral. Unfortunately, that is taking a side of the aggressor and of a brutal power that is just ruining everything around itself. Staying neutral between evil is not good. That means the South African Government is supporting evil today. And it is difficult to let that rest. It’s rather important. Impossible to grasp. Part of the problem is also some of the propaganda machinery that has reached out in the south and into South Africa.
On the reality in Ukraine
I would love to be able to get our truth across. Maybe that could change and sober those minds that think you can remain neutral when babies and toddlers are being raped in front of their parents. Their parents are tied up so they cannot respond and cannot do anything when elderly people are being raped. People are being tied up and killed just because they are Ukrainian, just because they want to live in their own country and let democracy thrive in the country.
On the contentious history between Ukraine and Russia
When people look at a map, most don’t realise Russia occupies one-fifth of the ground territory of the entire globe. And 85% of the lands are not mastered there in the Russian Federation. So it’s not about giving land. It’s not about the people. It is about trying to come to terms with their sick understanding of history; where they believe Ukrainians do not exist. I am the living example of a Ukrainian who does exist and there are plenty of us. We have been fighting this war for centuries. You have to understand it didn’t start now. In the 1930s, the Soviet machinery was so angry with Ukrainians who had this free spirit that they organised an artificial famine in our territory.
It has been going on for centuries and they have not given up on this because we always had this free spirit. We believed we always belonged to the kind of democratic civilisational space. This is why we are continuing to fight. And we will until we can breathe again.
On whether this has turned into an information war
Yes, unfortunately. But we have to understand this information war did not start on 24 February. Russia has been spreading its metastasis as a cancer through different information channels; also occupying those new possibilities like social networks (Facebook and Twitter). Unfortunately, there was little understanding in the world of how dangerous it is. I remember when, in 2017, , I served as a deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration for the Ukrainian Government. When we were closing Russian social networks on the territory of Ukraine, we were approached by so many European colleagues of ours. They would line up, as ambassadors do, in my office saying we were attacking freedom of speech. We had to show all these numerous examples and facts about how Russians have been using subversive activities through those networks on the territory of Ukraine. So again, it revealed the intelligence we had but it was a very difficult time to prove what we were up against.
Russia is also working through bribes and political think tanks; some of these are bribed politicians, analysts, even journalists. They use all these social networks that we’ve talked about. It means we still have not cut the oldest tentacle that Russia has been spreading around the world. But there is something we can do because otherwise we will be poisoned by that. Those countries that want to be neutral today, they will. Russia will decide to show its presence by, for example, turning people against the government on something unexpected before the government or if the government ‘misbehaves’, in some of the relationships they have with the Russian Federation.
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