Secretary General Visit to Kyiv

February 2-5, 2022

The Secretary General of the Community of Democracies, Thomas E. Garrett, traveled to the capital of Ukraine from February 2 through 5, 2022. He met with former President Viktor Yuschenko and First Lady Katherine Yuschenko, civil society leaders, political party activists, and human rights defenders. 

His statement on the mission follows:

The common thread through my meetings in Ukraine was that while there was uncertainty as to what actions Russian President Putin may undertake, there was no sense of panic or fear in the capital, but a mood of determination and ongoing preparation by citizens.

A crucial point I want to communicate is that the people I met with didn’t want to only speak to the security situation with Russia. They wanted to discuss current and ongoing efforts on democracy, such as reform of the electoral process and legal victories against corruption, separately from any war talk. I departed Kyiv with the strong sense that, whatever action Russia might undertake, Ukraine is committed to work to better its democracy.

A particularly poignant discussion in Kyiv with Crimean Tatar officials in exile described Moscow’s active repression of their culture, language, and citizens.   A civil society organization also told me of their work on human rights violations in eastern Ukraine. In both cases, accounts of arbitrary detention, torture, and disappearances of civilians in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine were numerous and unsettling.

Ukraine has been fighting Russian forces since 2014, with 14000 dead and one million citizens displaced internally. Thanks to the vital work of civil society and the country’s free media, the stories of harsh repression in the occupied Ukrainian territories are widely known, and there appear to be few if any places in Ukraine, even in areas of majority ethnic/linguistic Russians, that desire Moscow’s threatened interference. After listening to these Ukrainian men and women, I can say a unified populace plans to resist aggression if it comes to that.

I was visiting Ukraine in 2014 when Vladimir Putin seized Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine. That original invasion occurred due to the Maidan demonstrations, which removed corrupt Putin ally President Viktor Yanukovych. At that time, Moscow did not use NATO enlargement as its excuse for violating Ukraine’s borders.

The defensive force of NATO is not an actual threat to Russia; the Kremlin perceives democracy and freedom in Ukraine as the real threat. The cordon sanitaire President Putin seeks is in reality against democracy and the rule of law as much as against any Western security alliance.

The Community of Democracies promotes adherence to the Warsaw Declaration, with its principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Its Member States, including those from outside Europe, are working to support fellow democracy Ukraine.

I urge all democratic nations to join our Member States and actively commit to Ukraine’s freedom and sovereignty.