Dmytro Chepurnyi: Letter from Ukraine (February 22, 2022)

(This is an email, posted on the nettime list by Janos Sugar and published here with the consent of the author Dmytro Chepurnyi. Keep in mind: this was written before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. On Twitter Ileana Nachescu @Ileana_voix remarked:  “In hours and hours of coverage by the BBC, and hours and hours of coverage by American news channels, how many experts from the region have you seen? Specialists with non-Western names and accents? Maybe even Ukrainians? This is exactly the coloniality of knowledge.” At INC we’re trying to reserve this situation. /geert)

Dear friends and colleagues!

On the 21st of February 2022, by recognizing the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics Russian Federation confirmed its responsibility for the violence that is happening in eastern Ukraine since 2014. Today, Ukraine is in more danger than ever because of Russian aggression. I am writing now to ask for help. Go to your government and demand help for our country, because this is not just a war between Ukraine and Russia, this is a direct manifestation of Russia’s disdain of the norms of international law and an act of open aggression with complete disregard of the established borders in Europe. What is happening today paves the way for further Russian military aggression, which could be the downfall of global peace and security.

Also on February 21, 2022, Vladimir Putin delivered an hour-long speech full of fiction, cynicism, and aggressive militaristic rhetoric against Ukraine. The Russian president referred a lot to the history of the 20th century, but his version of this history is a fabrication filled with unachieved imperialistic dreams. This is worrying because it means that Russia could initiate the occupation of any post-imperial territories across Europe, continuing a pattern of action we have witnessed in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and beyond. Putin’s speech – in which he rewrote Ukrainian history and denied the existence of an independent Ukrainian state – concluded with a formal statement recognizing the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk, two territories in the east of Ukraine which have been occupied by Russian-backed forces for eight years.

Why am I writing to you right now with deep concern? I was born in Luhansk in 1994 and the best times of my childhood were spent in my grandma’s house in the beautiful village in the Luhansk region. I grew up in eastern Ukraine. Our family lived in a detached house in a suburb of Luhansk. Part of my family was forced to become internally displaced persons in 2014 because of Putin’s decision to occupy Crimea and his insurgence in Ukrainian Donbas. According to the Ministry of Social Policy in Ukraine, there are about one million internally displaced families who lost their homes due to the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine. The second part of my family currently lives in a ‘safe’, non-occupied part of the Luhansk oblast.

The decision to recognize the independence of the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk Peoples Republics has created an insecure situation in the non-occupied territory of the Luhansk oblast, which is currently defended by the Ukrainian army. Today there have been many announcements suggesting that the newly recognized ‘republics’ want to occupy the remainder of the Luhansk oblast with the support of Russian troops. Russia has already prepared the official military agreement with these so-called republics.

Since 2014 due to the Russian military intervention the occupied territories have become zones of violation of human rights. Among the examples include an illegal prison that is based on the territory of IZOLYATSIA, an art center in Donetsk I have regularly worked with in Kyiv after its relocation. Checkpoints allowing people in and out of these occupied territories interfere with the right for mobility and restrict economic freedom, access to medicine, and education. Russia and its republics cannot ensure basic human rights for the “new citizens”.

These personal stories and reflections have become a subject of a series of cultural projects I have initiated and realized independently and with various organizations since 2016. I know many cultural professionals and activists from Mariupol, Kramatorsk, Sievierodonetsk, Porkrovsk, Myrnograd, Starobilsk, and other towns of the Donbas region who don’t want to be occupied or to relocate in the nearest future, they are ready to defend the freedom and peace in their communities.

But in Ukraine today, my normal work is not possible. It is impossible to plan future projects, publish texts or take part in educational programs as the future is so grim and unpredictable due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. To be clear, this is re-established colonialism in Europe. We condemn the Russian aggression and call for everyone to support Ukraine and act against Putin’s crimes together with Ukrainians.

Our response to this act must be to stop the Russian Federation from taking any further steps to undermine the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia and its government must be stopped immediately!

Your public political position and support have never been so vital. Thank you very much for your support!

Warmest greetings from peaceful Kyiv

Kyiv, Ukraine

(Dmytro Chepurnyi, Kyiv-based curator and cultural manager)