For nearly two years now, Ukraine has faced unimaginable challenges, enduring Russia’s full-scale war against the country and its people. We sat down with Kira Rudik, ALDE Party Vice-President, Ukrainian MP and leader of ALDE Party member Golos, to hear her message to political leaders ahead of the 2024 electoral year.
This interview was conducted in early January, shortly after a missile attack brought the war into Ms Rudik’s own home.
Kira Rudik, the new year has started but unfortunately in Ukraine, the war goes on. How do you perceive the mood in the country, as the situation seems to be escalating?
You would think that in these two years of war, Ukrainians would have lost their initial resolve and energy, and yet, it’s not the case. My own home was hit by an explosion caused by a missile attack only recently, and so many people came together to support and help each other. What I realised in those terrifying and difficult days was that we still have it in us to fight. I still haven’t heard anyone suggest we start negotiating or making concessions.
We know this is difficult – war always is – but we will get through this, together. Love and hope still are the fuels we are running on.
This new year is very important for Ukraine but also for the European Union and many other global players, as several elections will be held across the world. What are your priorities for Ukraine, and what do you hope to see, for example, from the new European Parliament as it takes office in July?
The main goal for Ukraine is to bring us as close to the victory as possible. To achieve this, we need to ensure we have enough trained people to fight. But we also need to rely on the support of our partners and ensure that all political promises will be put into action. As a politician, as a member of ALDE Party, as a citizen of Ukraine, I am very concerned that we are entering the new year without confirmed support from the EU or the United States. I am grateful for all our ALDE sister parties for their support and for pushing their governments to support, both at national and European levels.
Russia is partnering up with countries like Iran and North Korea, and could gear up its military production easily as a result. On our side, we need to also make sure that we have strong and productive partnerships with practical, concrete results. It’s a race against time and we just can’t afford that.
As for the next European Parliament, it is crucial that the MEPs continue stand with Ukraine. It’s not a given – we have recently seen across Europe that elections don’t only change the direction to the better, they can also change it to the worse with populists and the far-right rising to power.
We can’t forget the sanctions either. When I get asked what should be included in the next sanctions package, all I can say is let’s make sure the previous sanctions work. For example, Russia is using sanction loopholes to produce more weapons. This is not right. The global community – without vetoes and without stalling the process – needs to ensure that the sanctions are upheld.
In this context, I want to acknowledge the efforts by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. By using the interest calculated for Russian frozen assets to provide support for Ukraine, he has created a viable precedent and demonstrated leadership.
Your own home in Kyiv was recently damaged by Russia’s missile attack. How are you feeling after such a terrible, very personal experience?
I feel very helpless. There is nothing you can do, as a human being, against a missile that is coming from the sky to kill you and everything you love.
The missile attack was in no way unique, over a period of just five days, Russia sent over 500 missiles and drones our way. Air raid sirens have become an everyday phenomenon. The missile landed less than a kilometre from my home but the following explosion was so strong it pulled the windows out of their frames and caused fires.
This isn’t something you can just shrug off and continue as if nothing had happened. But, I take it as a reminder of telling the world that the war isn’t over and that Ukrainians are still here, fighting for our country every day. We are a living proof that you can fight an enemy that is larger and stronger than you, but you can only do this if you are not alone. That is why it is so important the support for Ukraine continues and that political promises become concrete actions.
Incomprehensible destruction continues in Ukraine in this new year. We are sad to hear these kinds of news from our VP @kiraincongress and so many others. European Liberals continue to stand with Ukraine, more determined than ever. https://t.co/IBkJM3Ncw3— ALDE Party (@ALDEParty) January 2, 2024
On this note, do you have a message to share with Europe’s political leaders?
My message to political leaders is ‘For as long as it takes is now’.
The war is not over – we continue fighting every day. But the strategy of allowing us to fight needs to shift to allowing us to win.
The challenge we face is the strategy some of our partners have: we receive some weapons but not enough weapons that would allow us to regain our territories. We receive some support but not the kind of support that could take us to the winning moment. One of the toughest things is visiting the front line and talking with the soldiers, explaining them the political situation and why there are delays in support deliveries.
Female leadership – in politics and beyond – is a topic very close to your heart, and you have been championing for more female leaders for years now. In your view, what is the impact of war on female leadership?
Wars can be a push for equality – not because anybody wants to go through war but because war creates a situation where there is an immediate need for women to take on roles and responsibilities typically reserved for men. We saw this during the Second World War, and now in Ukraine, we see a huge push for women to take on new roles as men are fighting on the front.
In Ukraine, women can choose how they want to support our country. According to the official data, at least 50,000 women are working in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and 5,000 of them have chosen to go on the front lines. But you can also choose to contribute on the economic or humanitarian areas, or to support our communities. Many members of our party are actively involved in this way, and I am incredibly proud of their achievements and leadership at local councils. Women also alleviate the impact of war on children and through their example can demonstrate to young females that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
We recently held an event on female leadership, talking about the challenges and frustrations that female leaders face. We also talked about how other countries perceive Ukraine and, of course, the war as well. During the event a young girl asked me “Do you think that if there were more female leaders, there would be fewer wars in the world?”
I told her: I don’t know but I promise that we will continue fighting every day, so that in future we can find out if that is the case.