Concept / what we are trying to do
This initiative aims to build support for Ukrainian communities, social movements and the labour movement, in areas occupied by the Russian army. The initiative should operate at the level of civil society, i.e. independently from European, Ukrainian or other states.
(Limited) progress so far
We have organised two letters: one in the UK signed by seven members of the Welsh parliament, three members of the London Assembly and 40 other elected officials; and one in Switzerland signed by 13 members of the national parliament and 31 others. See https://ukraine-solidarity.org/.
The letters express solidarity with victims of human rights abuses, and propose specific actions: (1) to record all such cases systematically, (2) to offer material and legal support to elected representatives and other victims, and (3) to campaign internationally against this attack on democracy.
To do these things in a serious, sustained way, we need to work closely with appropriate people and organisations in Ukraine. We have tried, but not so far succeeded, to initiate a discussion with such organisations.
Two groups of tasks
- To approach relevant organisations, to find out how we can work together, including: Eastern Human Rights Group; Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group; Zmina; Centre for Civil Liberties (Ukraine); and the trade unions of mineworkers, transport workers and teachers. Recording cases, and offering material and legal support (points 1 and 2 in the letter) could only be done together with such organisations. An early step could be an all-European zoom call, on which these organisations report on their work and their needs.
- To improve the circulation of information internationally about the Russian-occupied areas, e.g. through dedicated internet resources, work with the media, etc; and to broaden the campaign in defence of democratic and labour rights e.g. with more collective letters, similar to the UK and Swiss ones (point 3 above).
- - We launched the UK and Swiss letters at the start of the war, as immediate responses to the attack on local government structures in occupied areas, which took the specific form of kidnapping and intimidation of elected officials. This is only one aspect of the mountain of human rights abuses in these areas.
- - The areas occupied in 2022 must be considered together with the areas occupied in 2014 (DNR, LNR and Crimea). Internationally, there has been little solidarity, or even awareness of what is happening there, since 2014. For example, where is the campaign to defend jailed Crimean Tatar activists?
- - Depending on the course of the war, human rights abuses in the Russian-occupied areas could be a central issue for a long time. This is a reason to push this initiative forward.
- - A campaign on this issue could aid political responses to those in the western labour movement who favour concessions to Russia, or who act as apologists for the Kremlin. The type of state power imposed in the occupied areas illustrates very well the crude imperialist character of Russia’s invasion.
SP, 27 May. [Summary of informal meeting]