"Our guys, our military, among other things, fight for you to have your morning coffee", — Liudmyla Denysova, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, said during the discussion "Protecting of human rights during the war" held at the former "Russian House" in Davos.
Ukrainian version is available here.
Translated from Ukrainian by Inna Makohonova.
From 2018 it was an official Russian residence in the Swiss resort town, a storefront of Kremlin's civility, a center for attracting international investments, a place to hold biased scientific debates and peddle influence with a side of Caspian caviar and French champagne.
This year the teams of PinchukArtCentre and Viktor Pinchuk Foundation together with Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers has rebranded the estate into "Russian War Crimes House" with topical exhibition and discussion panel as a part of World Economic Forum.
Because of the war against Ukraine, the aggressor-country wasn't allowed to participate in this year's World Economic Forum. Before that, the Forum was put on hold for two years because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the global agenda of healthcare and fighting economic inequality was adjusted because of the pressing catastrophe that Moscow had brought to Europe. Amidst the comfortable world of fairy tale chalets in the Alpine foothill, the co-curators Bjorn Geldhof and Kseniia Malykh opened the doors into the war-ridden realities of Ukraine.
"Russian War Crimes House" has burst into the presentable everyday life of Davos with signs, for which the artist Nikolai Karabinovych created design and logos. The event has received such a heightened attention that the local authorities ordered an additional security detail of Swiss police officers.
"A house, a home. What is a home? It's a place where you feel good and safe, where your dreams come true, the home is the future, where your children grow up, the home is the universe, a place where your journey begins. My country, Ukraine, my home, is war-struck. The hordes of butchers, rapists and murderers has brought war to our home. They may look human, but their actions deprive them of the right to be called human. We should say this loud and clear. We should speak the truth. The name of the former "Russian House" in Davos is not simply symbolic, it's true, it is just, because it sheds the light on the Russian worldview", — said Andrii Yermak, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, during his video address at the opening of the project.
The exhibition opens with "Incomplete map of Russia's war crimes in Ukraine" as of May 9th 2022.
"The map shows only the cases confirmed by the Office of Prosecutor General and Amnesty International, that's why the numbers are as low as they are. But it was important tous that no one could accuse us of spreading fakes and manipulating the data. Our team was very meticulous about choosing the photos for the exhibition — documentations of the war crimes. We looked for them in local Telegram channels, contacted each author. Every picture was checked. This exhibition speaks also of the bravery of the photographers, who took and continue taking photos in active war zones in this troubled time", — emphasizes Kseniia Malykh.
A dead body covered by a tarp on a street of Mariupol, a civilian from Kharkiv burned after the shelling, a firefighter putting out the flames on Barabashovo, the biggest market of Eastern Europe, bombed school in Kramatorsk, a children's toy left in destroyed Borodianka, expectant mothers in the basement of maternity ward in Kyiv, bittersweet embrace between people who have lost their loved ones in Bucha, rows of signs with the names of deceased in Chernihiv, the despair of refugees running away from occupied Irpin.
Every frame is an evidence against the war criminals. An evidence against the war, the idea of which should be brought to an end in Europe, forever incapacitating Moscow's never ending aggression. This is what the works of Mstyslav Chernov, Philip Cheung, Maksym Dondiuk, Pavlo Dorohoi, Efrem Lukatsky, Mykhailo Palinchak, Petro Sazonov, Yevhenii Zavhorodnii scream about.
The unnerving centerpiece of the exhibition is a piece of video art by Oleksii Sai, that he couldn't find a name for. The team behind the project has found and vetted 4683 photos capturing Russia's war crimes in Ukraine. As of today we know that one of the photographers, Maksym Levin has died at war. Oleksii Sai has used the majority of these photos to create the video sequence with a soundtrack of mix of conversations published by Security Service of Ukraine of occupants talking with their wives, fiancées, mothers.
"Oh, what I have in my pocket, you can buy an apartment with it"; "What Russian doesn't steal, right, eh?"; "I have not the slightest bit of regret"; "You go on, rape Ukrainian chicks, but don't tell me about it. I allow you. Just use protection"; "Can't you just take a phone from one of the locals and call me every day?" — phrases that cancel out the myth of great Russian culture. Because it either has no effect on people that were raised on it from kindergarten, or it contains those anti-human ideas.
Oleksii Sai confides: "If you listen carefully, it's more horrifying than the photos. I worked with two sets of photos — ones done by professional photographers and ones that ordinary people took with their phones. I still can't tell which shots shake me the most — high-quality, detailed ones, or those that look like they were accidentally captured by a witness. Working on this video was a few weeks of pure hell for me. But it's still nothing compared to the hell the authors of the photos went through".
"Russian War Crimes House" has become the platform where Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said: "In Ukraine we see what we saw in Chechnya and Syria. What Russian military do when they face the resistance. They harm not only military, but also civilians. In this case, they treat Ukrainians basically as prey. My team has already documented many examples of such war crimes in Ukraine".
Talking about the forced deportation of Ukrainians to Russian Federation, Liudmyla Denysova announced the number one million four hundred thousand victims — including two hundred forty thousand children. She called for a solution to the question of bringing back our fellow citizens at international level. She emphasized that the problem of rape by occupants is systemic and called it one of the tools of genocide.
"Explain to me, because I cannot find the answer myself, why did they need to kill peaceful civilians in my city and in other cities in Ukraine? They were not in Ukrainian Armed Forces, they we just peaceful people trying to survive. They were going to the hospital, to the humanitarian aid station... They shoot them up. That's why we have to talk about it at any given opportunity to stop it today and stop this from happening in the future.
I ask myself: why are they doing it? Because the evil wasn't punished in the past. Russian aggressors didn't feel the criminal responsibility for the past crimes. They weren't put on trial as Nazis were after the WWII. As a civilized world, a democratic world, we have to stop and condemn such actions that are, unfortunately, happening in my country, in my city" — the Mayor of Bucha Anatolii Fedoruk didn't hide his emotions.
"Russian War Crimes House" has become a multidimensional message, that has cemented it the understanding of necessity and inevitability of the international tribunal for the Russian war criminals.
The project has also demonstrated new level of cooperation between government and private sector — Presidential Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs has participated for the first time as a part of Ukrainian delegation that has been taking part in World Economic Forum since 2005.
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