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"The Germans are only consumers of democratic values"

Oleksandra Matviychuk was active in the Maidan revolution in 2014 and then spent eight years documenting Russian crimes in Ukraine.

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"The Germans are only consumers of democratic values"

Oleksandra Matviychuk was active in the Maidan revolution in 2014 and then spent eight years documenting Russian crimes in Ukraine. For the lawyer and a few colleagues, it was a lonely fight - until Putin's invasion. In mid-December, the 39-year-old accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. Before she flies back to Kyiv, she stops in Berlin and receives WELT in a hotel in the capital for an interview.

WORLD: Ms. Matwijtschuk, the last time we spoke was a year ago. Back then in your offices in Kyiv, before the invasion.

Oleksandra Matviychuk: It was more peaceful there back then. And lighter.

WORLD: What is your everyday life like there today?

Matvijtschuk: I don't know, because I simply don't know if I have heating or electricity. The war changes the perception of time, one lives in total unpredictability.

WORLD: How did the Russian invasion change your work?

Matviychuk: Completely. Before that, we documented the targeted persecution of political opponents by Russia. Now it is systematic terror against the whole people. Rape, torture, kidnapping. The shelling of neighborhoods, schools, churches, hospitals. We now have a network of dozens of local human rights organizations in Ukraine. In the ten months since the Russian invasion, we have documented 27,000 war crimes cases.

WORLD: When we spoke at the time, you asked Germany to finally be “honest”, to see Russia as a threat and to stop Nord Stream 2. But only Russia's invasion brought the "turn of the era". Is the federal government honest today?

Matviychuk: In the EU, politicians always tell me that they understand that Ukraine is fighting for the whole of Europe. Then I ask: If so, why don't you send us Leopard tanks? And why was a friend of mine blown up by a mine on the way to the front in a civilian vehicle when Europe stocks armored vehicles? Yes, Germany is now supplying weapons, which was unthinkable a year ago. But that's too slow.

WORLD: Why? Is that a conscious tactic?

Matviychuk: Maybe too. But I think the biggest difficulty is getting out of your comfort zone. You abroad can turn off the TV and ignore social media. But millions of Ukrainians cannot do that. This horror is part of her life.

WORLD: You have been dealing with Russia for years. Did you think such a war was possible?

Matwijtschuk: It was actually very predictable. But this reality is so cruel that you don't want to imagine it, it's a psychological mechanism. Similar to the Western politicians who, even after the invasion, still clung to a world that no longer existed. Only slowly did they understand that there was a whole new reality and that they had to respond to it.

WORLD: A year ago, hardly anyone wanted to hear your warnings. Today you have the Nobel Peace Prize...

Matviychuk: In the eight years since Russia's first attack in 2014, I've felt a great deal of frustration. We sent many war crimes reports to the UN, the Council of Europe, the EU. No one responded appropriately. Now it is visible to the whole world: Not only Ukraine is in ruins, but the international system of peace and security: A permanent member of the UN Security Council launches a war of aggression and eight years later an invasion and nobody can stop it. When UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in Kyiv in April, Russia killed Radio Liberty journalist Vera Gyrych with a rocket in her apartment on the same day. That was a clear message from Russia that it doesn't care about the international order. We must reform the international peace order.

WORLD: How is that supposed to work?

Matviychuk: First, Russia must be kicked out of the Security Council for systematically violating the UN Charter. But this can only be the beginning. The system created after World War II is broken, it grants special rights to some states, it locks in authoritarian regimes that do not represent their people.

WORLD: That sounds idealistic.

Matviychuk: Maybe. But I speak from experience. Everything we have achieved during the Maidan revolution is based on the massive mobilization of ordinary citizens. Even since February, normal people have achieved great things because they believe in freedom and democracy. Now we need help from abroad, especially from Germany, because this country has a special obligation. For years, the Federal Republic of Germany, together with France, was the mediator between Russia and Ukraine in the so-called Normandy format and did not prevent this great war.

WORLD: Did the Ukrainian reaction to the war surprise you?

Matviychuk: No, I expected that. We Ukrainians cannot rely on a strong political system. So when something like the Russian invasion happens, hundreds of civil society initiatives suddenly spring up. It was the same during the Maidan revolution of 2014. So that was clear to me.

WORLD: When we spoke in Kyiv, you were annoyed that Western countries treated Ukraine down and wanted to teach lessons in democracy. Did this change?

Matviychuk: I think Ukraine is teaching the western world an important lesson. Already with the Maidan revolution, but even more so in this war. The so-called developed democracies have been dealing with dictatorships for decades. But we are proving that democratic values ​​must be defended sincerely, even at great expense. The people of Germany and throughout the West have inherited democracy. They are only consumers of democratic values. They quickly trade the values ​​for the illusion of security or wealth.

WORLD: In Germany, many people are demanding that Ukraine negotiate with Russia.

Matviychuk: Nobody wants peace as much as we Ukrainians do, because it's us who are being tortured and killed. But everyone must finally understand that if a country that the enemy has invaded stops fighting, that is not peace. It's called crew. That is why we must end this war with a victory over Russia.

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