As Ukrainians fight for freedom, democracy, former leaders of Georgia, Ukraine weigh in on crisis at STTP event

The invasion of Ukraine is Russia’s “last attempt” to crush the country, reclaim its empire and reestablish a pre-World War II era of “rule by might,” a former deputy Prime Minister of Georgia Eka Tkeshelashvili has said.

“This is the new concept that Russia is imposing on all of us—accepting the fact that war crimes and crimes against humanity can go unpunished; that the crime of aggression is an effective tool of pursuing foreign policy aims by nations big or small”, Tkeshelashvili said at an exclusive Speakers Series event organized for high school students by the Speak Truth to Power Team at RFK Human Rights and the Nizami Ganjavi International Center on March 9.

Tkeshelashvili, currently head of the USAID Support to Anti-Corruption Champion Institutions program in Ukraine (SACCI), denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine, warning that it has set the world on a path to “relativism”—where individual rights and liberties don’t matter anymore, “because it’s relative.”

“At a time when nations ought to be fighting to entrench fair and just societies, Russia wants to compel the rest of the world to accept its invasion of Ukraine as a legitimate reality,” she said. “We are back to the 19th century, where relativism is a premise upon which we develop our societies, so that nobody has even an idea or an ambition to ask for more for the citizens of another country. Because, guess what? There are no rights and guarantees anymore.”

Reflecting on Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, Tkeshelashvili highlighted the threat of Russia’s expansionist ambitions to its immediate neighbors and beyond.

Tkeshelashvili made clear that Ukrainians are fighting for their individual freedoms, not nationalism. “It’s the independence and sovereignty of their country and they are ready to pay with their blood for their aspiration and commitment,” she said.

She urged collective action against Russia and called on its citizens to speak out and “put up a fight.”

Also speaking at the event, former Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Zlatko Lagumdžija underscored the need to mobilize global support in defense of Ukraine. “If Ukraine gets defended, then we have reason to believe it is not going to happen somewhere else,” he said.

Lagumdžija spoke to students at the virtual event a few meters from the site where he was wounded as deputy prime minister in 1993 following a shelling attack by Serb gunners.

Acknowledging Robert F. Kennedy as “my hero,” Lagumdžija said he joined politics to help create a world where people can live together in “shared societies” governed by democracy and human rights. He commended RFK Human Rights’ efforts to educate young people on the significance of the fight for human rights.

He cautioned against taking the situation in Ukraine for granted, noting that the Srebrenica genocide and other similar atrocities caught the world unawares. “Today’s world cannot be defended only on our soil. We have to defend people all over the world,” he said.

Over 3 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded the country, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

Written by Ohimai Amaize.