Newsletters / Khodorkovsky Highlights the Importance of Dialogue Between Russia and Ukraine

“Dark times are always followed by days of light,” Mikhail Khodorkovsky said during his speech opening the Ukraine-Russia Dialogue in Kyiv, reminding the conference attendees that “today’s most impossible dreams become tomorrow’s reality.”

The Forum, which was co-sponsored by Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia Foundation, took place on the 24th and 25th of April in Kyiv, featuring diverse participants including Ukrainian politician Yuriy Lutsenko, Petro Poroshenko, and modern Russian novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya.

“We have gathered here for different reasons but, above all, because we are in disagreement with President Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine policy,” Khodorkovsky said, according to his prepared remarks. “We are also here to express our solidarity with the Ukrainian people, a people that the Kremlin regime is trying to prevent from building its own life.”

As a show of solidarity for Ukrainian unity, Khodorkovsky visited the cities of Kharkov and Donetsk. Speaking in Donetsk, Khodorkovsky said that Western sanctions against Russia are unlikely to have the desired effect in the short term.

Following the Forum in Kyiv, Khodorkovsky made a visit to Kharkov and Donetsk on a fact-finding mission, but was blocked from entering the regional government headquarters by pro-federalisation activists

Media Coverage

Khodorkovsky’s speech to the Forum was covered by Der Spiegel of Germany, which reported that the event organisers sought to downplay the politics, but rather create an environment where public intellectuals from both Russia and Ukraine could develop links and help maintain peace.

According to coverage of the Forum by the Moscow Times, Khodokrovsky commented that President Vladimir Putin has acted out rashly because the fall of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych “hit too close to home for him,” and that Russians themselves were paying the price for Putin’s focus on “rules of centuries past.”

The Forum was also covered by the Associated Press, which quoted Khodorkovsky’s remark: “no dictator, however powerful he is, can turn us into enemies.”

Khodorovsky concluded his remarks with a call to his fellow countrymen, asking them to “go against the opinion of the ‘aggressively obedient majority.'”

Agence-France Press released a video report on the Forum, while Euronews features a video of Khodorkovsky’s speech in Donetsk.

Read the full text of his prepared remarks here, and view a photo gallery of the Forum here.

Statements and Resolution from the Forum

During the Ukraine-Russia Dialogue Forum, the event co-sponsor Russian PEN Centre released a statement signed by novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya and journalist Galina Timchenko, among others, emphasising their rejection of the hostilities while calling for greater mutual understanding between the two countries.

The Forum participants also adopted a resolution which stated that: “We are convinced that the world’s intellectual and cultural community must take a lead as a source of new ideas; ideas that will help put an end to the increasing Russian-Ukrainian enmity and to reinstate peace and concord.”

The resolution also called for the implementation of a number of concrete actions, including the establishment of an independent anti-corruption body that will be able to support much needed reforms for the new Ukrainian authorities.