Currently, Ukraine’s agenda should include not only a military victory over the Russian occupiers, but also a fresh look at its own interests, both in the international arena and in domestic politics. Yaroslav Hrytsak, a Ukrainian historian and professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University expressed these and other ideas in an interview with Kyiv Post.

“I believe that we should actively develop a plan for our victory and convey it to the West, so that when the time comes for Russia to surrender, the terms of capitulation can be delivered. And then a strong Ukrainian voice must be heard,” Hrytsak says.

With each passing day the voice of the Kremlin in the West is becoming less and less audible. The huge funds invested in Russian propaganda abroad, particularly in Russia Today, have been almost completely and irretrievably lost. In addition, the agenda has changed drastically. Propaganda works when it is accompanied and supported by real actions. And the reality at the moment is that Russia has carried out a bloody invasion of Ukraine.


“If there are still people who believe in Russian propaganda, it is impossible to convince them. But nowadays, being pro-Russian is almost the same as not brushing your teeth in the morning. Today, Russian propaganda still works in the territory of the Russian Federation. Another question is whether it works in the territory of the recently occupied Ukrainian regions? This cannot be known for sure at the moment. However, I assume that Russian propaganda has completely stopped working in Ukraine. Putin has destroyed its fruits with Russian missiles,” the historian adds.

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However, eight years ago, when Russia occupied the eastern territories of Ukraine and Crimea, it began conducting an aggressive pro-Russian propaganda campaign there. It gradually erased the national identity of Ukrainian citizens who remained living in the occupied areas.

Nevertheless, the restoration of this identity after the de-occupation of the territories is not a priority. After all, it cannot be solved quickly, the process of returning Ukrainian identity will take place gradually, mostly with the passing of generations.


Catharsis: the judicial system and the truth commission in the liberated territories

According to Hrytsak, first it is necessary to create a “court of justice” in the liberated territories, which will represent the national judicial system. This institution must identify criminals and bring them to justice. In addition, the rights of those who collaborated with the occupation authorities should be restricted. For example, they should be prohibited from holding positions in any government bodies and participating in elections or being elected for at least ten years.

The second step should be the establishment of a “truth and reconciliation commission,” as was the case in South Africa in 1996. This commission investigated politically motivated crimes during apartheid. Hrytsak believes that this will be a separate type of litigation. It does not necessarily have to result in imprisonment: the criminal is given a choice – an ordinary trial or an investigation by the commission. If he chooses the latter, he must confess to all his crimes in front of the victims and the media.


“There has to be something called catharsis. That is, something must happen so that all the guilty parties realize what actually happened. And justice should be exclusively within the framework of the law,” Hrytsak emphasizes.

The importance of forestalling an authoritarian regime and civil war after victory

It is necessary now to deal with the formation of a “victory package” – a list of measures that will ensure the prosperity of Ukraine in the future and reduce the risks of internal conflicts, as well as the formation of an authoritarian regime.

“We need a government capable of implementing political and economic reforms,” the publicist emphasizes. “I assume that huge investments will be directed to the de-occupied regions for their recovery. And where there are investments, there are not only opportunities, but also huge temptations. The West is already discussing the conditions under which money will be given to Ukraine. After all, Western officials see the danger from long-standing corruption and oligarchs,”

Hrytsak is concerned about the state of Ukrainian society after the war ends. “I’m afraid that after the victory we will have heated arguments about who did more for the victory. After all, everyone knows that victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”


A vivid historical example of such an internal conflict is the outcome of the Greco-Persian wars, when small Greek settlements united and defeated the huge Persian empire and were very proud of it. However, 20 years after the joint victory, a war between Athens and Sparta began, which lasted even longer and was more brutal than the war with the Persians.

“Victory in the war does not mean the end of the war at all. And victory could lead to a war over how we see our future. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary to work on it,” Hrytsak says.

So at the moment it is important that new political projects (movements or parties) be formed, which could become a real counterweight to Zelensky’s power and influence. He deserves respect as the country’s leader and commander-in-chief, but there must be a counterbalance, otherwise there will be a threat of an authoritarian regime.

It is possible to create such a system of counterbalances in the political system of the country, first of all, by reforming the judicial system. It should become truly independent both from other branches of power and the oligarchs.

“Until this happens, I do not understand where the energy necessary for the recovery and transformation of Ukraine will come from. As economists told me, 75% of investments in Ukraine come from people who are just starting to do business. But the state needs to create favorable conditions for entrepreneurs. It should be harmless, safe – useful both for the country and for the entrepreneur himself. Despite this, we see that the authorities have done a lot to make doing business in our country difficult or even dangerous,” Hrytsak concludes.

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