Sunday, October 4, 2015

Nataliya Popovych: Why we raised flag in front of Putin at UN

Image from article, with caption: The Ukrainian delegation led by President Petro Poroshenko walks out of the General Assembly ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech at the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 28 in New York.

For Ukrainians, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s UN speech was seen a sign of disrespect for the people and the heroism of soldiers who have already given their lives for a year and a half, sacrificing everything to stop the expansionist plans of the neighboring state.
Traditional diplomacy of the 20th century included negotiations, protocols, signatures, handshakes and trust that the agreements would work.
Otto von Bismark said once that one should never rely on any agreement that Russia has signed. They are not worth the paper it is written on.
Unprecedented challenges of 21th century diplomacy formed by Russian aggression in Crimea and Donbas, forced us to unconventional steps towards Russia which are asymmetric towards Russian statements and actions, which show our patriotism and genuine participation in helping Ukraine’s official diplomatic work.
We had an attempt to show an example of proactive diplomacy yesterday.
It was our attempt to remind that the world has changed since Russia attacked Ukraine, annexed Crimean peninsula and started the war in Donbass.
We tried to show that the world’s rules and regulations have undergone drastic changes after the shameful undeclared war.
It was almost the first time when we had a national team – the parliament, presidential administration, civic society, regional government and diplomats, diaspora.
We appreciate their role for a common synergy of efforts in the international arena.
The Ukrainian delegation left the UN General Assembly hall right before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speech on Sept. 28.
We raised a tattered blue-and-yellow flag from the eastern Ukrainian city of Ilovaisk towards the Russian president in a silent protest. The flag that honors Ukrainian fighters, the majority of whom have died, when Russia have been killing Ukrainians in August 2014 amid agreements and protocols.
In the meantime, outside the assembly, the representatives of a very active community in the U.S. participated in what appeared to be one of the biggest protests against the visit of a leader in the history of the assembly.
We believe in diplomacy of principles and pro-activity when the protocol doesn’t matter to national interests.
When you were taken out of the assembly hall as other participants watch you, it’s unpleasant. We were sad for our crumpled flag, which they gave back to us. However, its even more sad to talk about the protocol of this esteemed organization when Russia ignored international law and world leaders can’t do anything about it for the last two years.
It’s important that the world understands what goes behind Putin’s well-made speech, what is the basis of his democracy: murders, blood and suffering.
That’s why on the battlefield of official diplomacy, we as a post-revolutionary country tired of war, always lose. Our only chance is a public diplomacy.
It’s impossible to win when we play by the existing rules with someone who despises the rules.
Russia’s violation of all international agreements should force us not only to review the international protocol, but also to force the world to create new rules that will prevent such aggression.
As for Ukrainians, we need to be tireless in defending the interests of our country.
That’s our only chance.
Nataliya Popovych is a co-founder of Ukrainian Crisis Media Center and an adviser to presidential chief of staff Boris Lozhkin. This op-ed was written in collaboration with Gennadiy Kurochka, a co-founder of Ukrainian Crisis Media Center; Hanna Hopko, chair of parliament’s foreign affairs committee and Yulia Marushevska, deputy governor of the Odessa Regional State Administration and civic activist. This opinion was originally published in Novoye Vremya.

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