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Forty Ukrainian civil society groups have come together to call on the West to establish safe zones for refugees inside Ukraine, and provide technology to help document Russian war crimes as part of a plan to make Vladimir Putin and his inner circle face justice at the International Criminal Court.

The appeal called the Kyiv Declaration has been put together by the groups in Kyiv and other cities coordinating via encrypted app’s, and face-to-face in underground shelters. The signatories include Ukrainian Helsinki Group for Human Rights, Come Back Alive, Ukraine Crisis Media Centre and Women’s Perspectives says the world has to act now before the Russians seize power.

The Declaration is a sign that despite the huge practical difficulties Ukrainian civil society is still operating, largely supporting its government and trying to urge the West to maintain the momentum of its support.

The six humanitarian demands include safe zones for refugees inside the country; the provision of anti-tank missiles; sanctions to be broadened to include a ban on energy trading with Russia; a faster crack down of the wealth of Russian oligarchs abroad including withdrawal of family visas; requisition fuel, logistics support and emergency medical equipment, such as field hospitals, mobile clinics and trauma supplies. It also calls for the supply of technology and support to human rights groups, as well as lawyers, recording Putin’s war crimes.

Safe or buffer zones were set up in North East Syria in 2019 following an agreement between Turkey and Russia. A less consensual zone was declared by US Britain and France in Iraq to protect the Kurdish minority after the Gulf War of 1991, when the US, Britain and France declared two no-fly zones in the north and south.

An imposed safe zone in Ukraine would require air power, something that so far has been ruled out by Nato leaders since it would take Nato into direct conflict with the Russian air force.

Lyubov Maksymovych, Chair of Women’s Perspectives, said:

We are issuing this declaration on behalf of Ukrainian women and men who stand together to fight for their liberty and freedoms. At this moment, it’s not too late to draw a line in the sand, here in Ukraine rather than through the centre of Europe – which is what will happen if we fail. We hope that western powers have learnt from the long failures of appeasement, and the obvious duplicity and inhumanity of Vladimir Putin. This is the most important declaration I have ever signed. If it is not answered, it could also be my last.

Olga Aivazovska, Chair of Elections Watchdog Opora, said:

Now is the moment the world must demonstrate its support not only for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, but also for the values of democracy, human rights and freedom. With the Kyiv Declaration, we ask for your help in defeating an autocratic dictator to defend not only Ukraine but the whole democratic world and the principles it is founded on.

Oleksandr Pavlichenko, the Executive Director of Ukrainian Helsinki Group for Human Rights, said:

Vladimir Putin and his henchmen believe they are above the law, that they can get away with this bloodshed because the world needs their gas and oil. We must prove them wrong. We must expose the truth. We must hold them to account in a court of law.






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