Standing with Ukraine
By Leonard Benardo
It is almost a month since former president Viktor Yanukovych fled Ukraine for Russia. Ukraine remains in peril. Events unfolding in Europe’s largest country are of extraordinary importance—not only for Ukraine’s 46 million inhabitants but for the entire Eurasian region. Suppositions about an either/or fault line for Ukraine—a turn toward Europe or back to the USSR are simplified and overstated. Ukraine’s future lies in Europe and Eurasia. But a democratic Europe and Eurasia. It has been and always will be a bridge to both.
In the 23 years since the Soviet Union imploded, we have not seen a moment this significant. If events go sour—if there is increasing repression—relations between Ukraine and Russia will be profoundly impaired as well as those between Russia and the West.
The annexation of Crimea is now accepted by most as a given. Despite the peninsula’s historic relationship with Russia, the loss remains a deep shock for Ukrainians. While attention outside of Ukraine has turned to President Putin’s ambitions elsewhere in the region, we must not forget about Crimea, especially its minority groups such as the Tatars. Seventy years ago in May, the Soviet Union began the deportation of more than 200,000 Tatars from Crimea to present-day Uzbekistan. Forced to work in labor camps, nearly half of the deportees died from starvation and disease, according to some estimates. The Tatars are now particularly vulnerable as they oppose the annexation.
The Open Society Foundations have helped the people of Ukraine work toward a society that is just, fair, and respects the rights of all citizens for over 20 years. We are committed to continuing this work throughout Ukraine. Whether documenting human rights abuses in Crimea, pushing for reforms in Ukraine’s new government to fight corruption, or providing legal aid for those who have suffered injustice. Ukraine must do all it can do to help itself, and Open Society will be there to support this work.