A high-profile congress, “Ukraine-Russia: a Dialog,” organized by the Russian PEN Center, Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia, and Yurii Lutsenko’s Third Ukrainian Republic, opened on April 24 in Kyiv. Accordingly, the leaders of these organizations were the first to be given the floor. The forum moderator Yekaterina Gordeyeva read out a letter from Yulia Tymoshenko who was also invited but failed to come owing to a mission in Luhansk. The organizers expect to see almost 600 participants from Ukraine and Russia – culture and media figures, publishers, human rights champions, and public activists. And, although the congress’ title comprises the word “dialog,” it seems sometimes that Russia does not hear Ukraine. In spite of an exchange of courtesies on the stage, the atmosphere was tense. Some of the foreign guests thought that, in this situation, the Russian side was to apologize for the actions of their country. Others did not agree to this. Nevertheless, as the well-known Russian journalist Pavel Sheremet said, “you cannot stop a war by a conference.”
All the visitors The Day interviewed at the forum’s opening are still unaware of how practical dialogs could help Ukraine and Russia settle their relations. But Mikhail Khodorkovsky does have some ideas. His introductory speech had the following phrase: “During these two days, we are going to discuss various subjects, such as establishment of a full-fledged European-style university on the basis of Ukraine’s leading higher educational institutions, a cultural dialog, corruption control, and fair information for society. Kyiv must regain the status of a Slavic culture center.” Establishing a university and restoring Kyiv’s original status is the first practical step. The two sides hope there will be much more “resolutions” of this kind by the end of the conference.
Georgy SATAROV, Russian public figure, analyst, political journalist:
“It was important for me to have an opportunity to visit Ukraine and see the situation from inside. Of course, I do not watch Russian propagandistic channels, but still you have a better idea of things on the spot. I am also sure to go and see the Maidan. It is not up to us to decide whether or not to transfer the center of Slavic culture to Kyiv – it is the prerogative of generations to come. But there is an important idea behind these words because Russia is backing up. And whoever backs up cannot be a leader. But here I can feel some movement forward. Ukraine shows the spirit of a leader more than Russia does.”
Veronika KUTSYLLO, Russian journalist:
“The people who have gathered here have never been enemies, so nothing should impede this dialog. But you should understand that the current split in Russia is not only between intellectuals and uneducated people. Even in my milieu, there are people who support the actions of our president. Obviously, people should take pride in something, but they have nothing to be proud of, so they keep saying ‘yet Crimea is ours.’ It is very difficult to make them change their mind. I think if we manage to work out some recommendations here, this may influence those who can still think in Russian society.”
For details, read the next issues of The Day.