Putin the “Hitler of the 21st Century” says former Ukrainian president

Viktor Yushchenko, who survived poisoning by Russian backed opponents, spoke in Cape Town on the eve of the Easter long weekend

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Former President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko spoke at The Labia independent cinema in Cape Town on Thursday evening after a screening of the Oscar-winning documentary, 20 Days in Mariupol. Photo: Steve Kretzmann

Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a fascist, a real Hitler of the 21st Century”, says former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Yushchenko was president from 2005 to 2010 following Ukraine’s Orange Revolution in which civic resistance resulted in a recount of the 2004 presidential election run-off which was seen to have been marred by corruption, voter intimidation, and electoral fraud.

He was speaking at The Labia independent cinema in Cape Town on Thursday evening following a screening of the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Days in Mariupol, in which Ukrainian journalist Mstyslav Chernov and colleagues documented Russia’s siege of the port city. The siege marked the escalation of the war which had begun in February 2014.

Chernov and colleagues from the Associated Press were the only international journalists who stayed in the city after it was cut off. They revealed Russia’s bombardment of civilian areas, including the bombing of a maternity hospital. Many of the early images of Russian invasion became known to the world from their dispatches.

A United Nations Commission of Inquiry has found evidence of war crimes committed by Russian troops and authorities in Ukraine, including torture, rape, and the deportation of children.

The once-off screening of the film, which shows the impact of the war on civilians, was arranged by the United States Consulate. A screening was previously held at the University of Pretoria on 28 February.

Yushchenko, who was in Cape Town independently of the event, said Ukraine would “never be able to shake hands with (Putin), as he is standing on our throats”. He urged South Africans to stand with Ukraine, and “be on the right side”.

US Consul General Todd Haskell said the USA supported “the sovereignty of Ukraine”, with US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken having made it clear that “Russia chose this war”.

“We want to end the war as quickly as possible but on terms that guarantee Ukraine’s sovereignty,” said Haskell. He said the 500 additional sanctions against Russia announced by the US following the death of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny in a penal prison, were announced “to hold Putin responsible for his crimes”.

Earlier this month, Putin was re-elected president in a landslide 88% win, which other nations, including the USA, UK, and Germany, have announced was neither free nor fair given Putin’s harsh repression and imprisonment of political opponents.

Read also: Why I donate money to Ukraine

TOPICS:  Foreign affairs

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

My name is Olga Kononenko, from Ukrainian association of South Africa (UAZA). One of our members kindly shared your article with us and I was just adding some context to the statement in your article. He mentioned you wanted me to reach out to you with this additional comment, what I'm happy to do.

“Chernov and colleagues from the Associated Press were the only international journalists who stayed in the city after it was cut off.”
Mantas Kvedaravičius, a Lithuanian documentary film director also remained in Mariupol. He was killed on 2 April 2022 while trying to leave the besieged city of Mariupol, the life of which he had documented for many years. He was captured by Russian forces, tortured and killed.

His movie was finished by his colleagues and released after his death.

In his interviews, Chernov always mentions that he felt they left too soon, and he was torn by that even though he knows it was too dangerous for them to stay since Russians had been looking for them. He always pays tribute to Kvedaravičius (you can find direct quote here: https://www.npr.org/2023/11/13/1212613028/20-days-in-mariupol-ukrainian-filmmaker-mstyslav-chernov and in interview https://youtu.be/VqAYnwhqBdo?si=p2MLHPM8JXNuVkqt [time code 25:46 and 28:50]).

If you have a chance to watch Mariupolis and/or Mariupolis 2, please do.

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