Ukrainian delegation thanks Australia
The barbarism of the Russian invasion of their homeland has shocked Ukrainians but deepened their resolve to fight for their nation’s survival.
This is the message brought by a Ukrainian parliamentary delegation visiting Australia this month.
Delegation leader Galyna Mykhailiuk, a Member of Parliament and lawyer, says the one thing Vladimir Putin has achieved in his attack on Ukraine was to unite all Ukrainians.
She says Russians have used rape of civilians and prisoners, and other forms of unlawful violence, as weapons in a process of dehumanisation.
Speaking at a gathering at Victoria’s Parliament House, Ms Mykhailiuk said Ukraine was not ready to negotiate despite the repulsing of some of Russia’s forces in Ukraine and Vladimir Putin’s meeting with China’s president.
“Our president, he goes to the frontline – while there is shelling, he is not afraid to be there on the frontline, to talk to soldiers, to be there on the zero level,” she said.
“Any kind of international agreements, international conventions, they do not work in Russia.”
Ms Mykhailiuk says all Ukrainians were appreciative of the support coming from Australia and other nations.
“We are grateful for the support Australia provided to Ukraine from the first day of the invasion. The support matters and we feel it across the oceans and time zones. Australia has made the biggest contribution outside of the NATO countries,” she said.
“Australia proved to be a very reliable ally in a dark period of Ukrainian history. You helped us to preserve our freedom, independence and democracy.
“For us, it’s very important to express our gratitude to Australia citizens, to the parliament, the government of Australia personally, face to face, for all the support that was provided to Ukraine, military, financial and humanitarian.”
Ms Mykhailiuk says that many military and intelligence experts wrote off Ukraine, saying the country would fall in a few days.
“But thanks to the bravery of our soldiers and the support of our friends, we have held out for 13 months now.
“We believe 2023 will be a victorious year for Ukraine. And our soldiers on the front line are counting on the support of Australia. We know that the Bushmaster vehicles that Australia has provided are making a big difference on the battlefield.”
She recalled the moment the war began in February 2022.
“A year ago when the war started on that morning at 4.30am, we rushed to parliament to put our country on a war footing. We took important decisions, we gave additional powers to cabinet and we resolved to fight,” Ms Mykhailiuk said.
“A new life started for all of us. And my personal reflections at the time were about h9ow we were going to preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty.
“Now, it’s important for Ukraine to have victory on our terms and then we will start to rebuild.”
Ms Mykhailiuk says Ukraine would not negotiate while Russian troops remained on its soil.
She says the biggest victims of the war were Ukrainian children.
“Kids are having trouble sleeping and concentrating. They are struggling to focus at school and some even have trouble talking.
“We are seeing psychological effects of the war playing out. When we are being bombed and shelled each night, people don’t get any sleep and this has an effect over time,” Ms Mykhailiuk said.
Estimates say that about a thousand children have been killed in the war, many hit by Russian missile strikes and gunfire.
Another 16,000 Ukrainian children are believed to have been kidnapped and taken to Russia.
Ms Mykhailiuk says Russia is introducing a law allowing Russians to adopt these children even if they have parents alive in Ukraine.
Ukraine is pleading with the European Parliament and the governments of European and other nations for help to set up a specialised international organisation to help it get the children back.
“For an occupier and invader to kidnap children is against any international law,” she said.
“And while war is always terrible, the Russian crimes are beyond belief. We did not expect that they could do such things.
“They use everything as a weapon – rape as a weapon, energy as a weapon, cold as a weapon. It’s impossible to understand how this can be done by a country in 21st-century Europe.”
Ms Mykhailiuk says that despite civilian and military casualties, Ukrainians remains confident of victory.
“We realise that we don’t have any other choice except to win this war.”
She says areas liberated from Russian forces have been heavily mined and hundreds of Ukrainian civilians have been killed by exploding mines.
“They put mines everywhere, even into kids’ toys. When people go back to their apartments and open the door there might be explosion, or they open the door of their fridge, there might be an explosion, or when they start their car.”
Ms Mykhailiuk told of one terrible week in January when she lost seven of her friends to the conflict.
But she says her nation will fight until the Russians are driven out of all of the country including Crimea.
“If Ukraine surrenders, then Russia will invade Poland and the Baltic countries. We don’t have a choice, we have to win,” she said.