The Russian invasion of Ukraine is now in its third month in what is recognised as the largest European conflict since World War II. Ukrainian resistance has been an inspiration and discussions are beginning on how best to organise Ukraine’s post-war recovery.
The rebuilding of Ukraine will be one of the most challenging undertakings of the twenty-first century. To help us understand and to develop a discussion on issues such as debt, war crimes and justice, labour standards, social inequality, The Ukraine Solidarity Campaign with Alex Sobel MP hosted a Parliamentary Briefing on key questions Ukrainians and the UK faces regarding the reconstruction of a free Ukraine. This was held on 23 May with a range of speakers from Ukrainian civil society, the labour movement and the USC. Speakers were:
Mykhailo Volynets Chairperson of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions
Vasily Andreev, Vice-Chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine
Dr Yuliya Yurchenko of Social Movement (Ukraine) and of the University of Greenwich
Bohdan Ferens Social Democratic Platform (Ukraine)
Mick Antoniw MS, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution
Dr Gregory Schwartz, University of Bristol
We publish below briefing papers and also the video of this important event.
Briefing paper for Members of the UK Parliament
Bohdan Ferens, founder, SD Platform of Ukraine / sdplatform.org.ua
Why does Ukraine deserve more?
1. Every day on my Facebook there are mentions of fallen heroes who defend Ukraine from Russian invaders. These are young male students, older male fathers and female volunteers. They made completely different plans for life four months ago, in which there was definitely no place for war and death. These are the new realities in which Ukrainians live. The price of freedom and the desire to become a full part of the European Community is too high. It is measured by tens of thousands of dead civilians, including more than three hundred children killed by Russian troops, destroyed cities and infrastructure. For two months and twenty-seven days in a row, the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people have been resisting new and new attacks by the Russian occupiers in various directions. The Russian troops are using methods that violate the rules of war. They attack civilian infrastructure, killing and injuring civilians, including children and women, and make actions that can have regional and international consequences.
2.The Kremlin brutally attacked Ukraine with explicitly imperialist aims, with a view to restoring what it considers its so-called rightful ‘sphere of influence’ in the post-Soviet space, thus implicitly threatening not only Eastern European Partner Countries but EU members and the UK. The aggression also entails a systemic element. Putin’s Russia is promoting an autocratic-state model, using Russism as an ideological superstructure of military expansionism and nationality cult, in contrast to the democratic polity towards which countries such as Ukraine have been striving—the value system on which the EU is founded and which it seeks to project.
3. The prerequisites for the end of the war are not yet observed, so it is necessary to be prepared for a protracted confrontation and support for Ukraine in its struggle. This support primarily provides for the provision of weapons, financial and humanitarian assistance. The position of the progressive left in this regard should be very clear – maximum support for the Ukrainian people, since Russian bombs and troops cannot be stopped only with the help of pacifism. Diplomacy failed. This, unfortunately, must be stated as a fact. But any war sooner or later ends with a truce. Diplomatic efforts alone are not enough for achieving this goal. Putin understands only the language of force, and not only the future of Ukraine, but also a new system of European, and perhaps global security, will depend on the success of the Ukrainian army at the front.
4. The reconstruction of Ukraine must already begin. There is no need to wait for the end of the war to renew the infrastructure and rebuild the bombed-out cities. Tens of thousands of people need a roof over their heads, and children in many villages and cities that were under temporary occupation dream of starting the new school year in renovated schools. All these tasks cannot be carried out without the help of Western partners, including the UK, in the short and long term. Rebuilding post-war Ukraine will require a lot of financial and human resources. We need to be realistic and understand that not all Western partners will be ready to provide such resources. Domestic problems, the repercussions of the pandemic, the recession, and some weariness from the Russian war against Ukraine may prevent such assistance from being provided. In this regard, politicians, decision makers and citizens play a key role, as the level of support will depend on their involvement and empathy with Ukraine.
5. It is also necessary to take more radical steps that will allow Ukraine to overcome the financial and economic crisis. Such a step could be the cancellation of sovereign debt, or at least part of this debt, since the financial system was not particularly capable of covering external debts on loans in the pre-war period, and what can we say when there is a war.
The provided monetary assistance should have a targeted application and a transparent monitoring distribution system. First of all, the results of the use of this assistance should be seen by ordinary people in the construction of residential buildings, bridges, the repair of social infrastructure, the provision of basic needs and social guarantees. New jobs must be created so that people who are already unemployed today can feed themselves and their families.
Another serious problem is the decrease in the level of financial transfers from labor migrants (many men went to the front or cannot leave the country to work), which traditionally helped support the economy.
6. It is impossible to resolve all these problems without a deep restructuring of Ukraine itself. The political elites should get rid of the politicians of the past and oligarchs as much as possible, and the Ukrainian society, which has gone through such difficult trials, should be more demanding of itself and those who are elected to defend their interests. There should be parties in parliament that will not only strengthen the defense sector and build up military power, but also prioritize education and the social sphere, protect labor rights and fight against the infringement of marginalized groups. In times of war, the most vulnerable always suffer. The main task of the progressive left is not to live by the slogans of the past, but to try to act now, in spite of any difficulties. Trade unions should also be modernized in Ukraine. Only new leaders and fresh approaches can fill the trade union movement with new vitality in order to better protect worker’s rights.
7. We are sincerely grateful to the British people for their help and solidarity at this difficult time. It would also be very helpful if the representatives of the Labour Party were more involved in support of Ukraine. Such support may include very practical actions such as a visit to Ukraine, support for legislative initiatives aimed at helping the Ukrainian people, increased sanctions against Russia, including Russian oligarchs, politicians and their families who own expensive real estate and assets in London, investigations of links Russian financial and industrial groups with the British political establishment. On the part of the SD Platform, we are ready to help in organizing a visit to Kyiv, as well as to deepen cooperation.
Mick Antoniw: Ukraine Solidarity Parliamentary Briefing
I make this note for the meeting in a personal capacity. I am a Welsh Labour member of the Welsh Parliament/Senedd and hold the position of Counsel General and Minister of the Constitution in the Welsh Government.
- The evidence of War Crimes committed by Russia and Russian Federations citizens or agents is overwhelming. Investigations are underway by the International Criminal Court and also by the United Nations.
- The nature of the crimes include conducting a war of aggression against a peaceful sovereign neighbour, as well as numerous examples of murder including planned liquidations, attacks on residential areas, use of prohibited weaponry, torture, rape, looting and others.
- It is vital that the issue of the investigation of and accountability for war crimes does not become in any way negotiable. The upholding of international law in this area is fundamentally important. Any divergence from this undermines the credibility and status of International Law. Those who commit war crimes, whoever and whatever their status must be held to account.
- Reparations: Post war , Russia must be held to account for its actions as a state that has invaded and attacked a peaceful neighbour without cause. Those assets seized or frozen must become the basis of a package of post war assets that can be allocated for the reconstruction of Ukraine and reparation to victims. This has to be addressed internationally but may require legislation ad national level. It is important this process starts now.
- The Law of the Sea must be guaranteed enabling the free passage of ships and goods to Ukrainian ports. The Russian blockade must be brought to an end and this may require international action.
- Russian troops must be withdrawn from Ukraine and international sovereignty as guaranteed by International Law and the Budapest agreement must by re established.
- Only then can the issue of sanctions be discussed. Sanctions are the main international leverage. They must be upheld and indeed strengthened. Changes to the sanctions regime must be contingent on 1-6 above.
Mick Antoniw MS
UK Parliamentary Briefing By Yuliya Yurchenko
Ukraine Solidarity Campaign, Social Movement (UA political organisation – I make this statement in my capacity as a member of this organisation rev.org.ua ), and Senior Lecturer in Political Economy at the Political Economy, Governance, Finance and Accountability Institute, University of Greenwich.
On April 10 the World Bank updated its GDP prognosis for Ukraine to state that the Russian invasion was to shrink Ukraine’s economy by 45% in 2022 alone – it will be larger by the end of this war, the final date is not clear. By March 29, 2022 already the country’s direct one-time losses due to the invasion already exceed $1 trillion, according to the PM Shmygal. Even prior to the invasion Ukraine already was one of the poorest and most indebted countries in Europe. Current budgetary expenditure on arms, humanitarian needs, and medical needs of the wounded have grown exponentially. There is a growing recognition at the international, EU and US governing body level, acknowledgement in the IMF report of April 2022 that Ukraine will also need money to reconstruct its homes and infrastructure and clean up and decontaminate cities and countryside.
Post-WWII social and economic reconstruction experience as well as the last 2 years of pandemic responses present us with useful blueprints of actions that work in conditions of extreme exogenous shocks to economic systems. State-led investment, cross-sectoral support and cooperation, and “fiscal activism” are the bedrock principles of the immediate, mid- and long-term response being successful. Fiscal activism is a highly effective set of measures aimed at stabilising the economy by granting the state a wider spectrum of options with its budgetary expenditure and acting as an investor in own economy sectors in order to lift it out of debris.
Ukraine is in a state of an unprovoked and uneven war and needs large-scale multi-faceted international assistance (military and financial) and we at SR welcome and express our deep gratitude for what already been set in motion, including in the UK. We too recognise that assistance must be always used purposefully. For that we need Ukraine’s state debt cancellation and facilitation of “fiscal activism” of Ukraine’s government for the foreseeable future. Assistance to a country in a state of war should be targeted at its urgent needs and not be used to prop up debt servicing especially as some debt accrued was done so in often odious circumstances e.g. the 2013 Russia’s Eurobond purchase-bride to Yanukovych legitimacy of which is currently decided by the UK Supreme Court. Nor should the country be pushed to accrue more debts and thus again essentially misallocate the needed funds as they should be spent supporting the population, rebuilding the country, its economy or lift it out of the debris of war. International cooperation and oversight too are welcome and needed.
We ask you to support:
1. Suspension of debt servicing via coordinated effort of international institutions and statespersons (similar to the H.R.7081 – Ukraine Comprehensive Debt Payment Relief Act);
2. Work (of SR/UA) towards an international plan for full debt cancellation for Ukraine;
3. Support (SR/UA) development of the post-war reconstruction plan collectively financed by reparations from Russia as well as those international partners willing to support Ukraine based on the post-WWII reconstruction experiences and the COVID-19 exogenous shock response lessons, first and foremost for key industries and on the principles of green, just transition, social dialogue, and energy democracy.
4. Support military aid for Ukraine, sanctions against Russia, and forfeiture of oligarchic assets towards reconstruction of Ukraine.