The dimly lit room, packed with Russians, discussing Russian President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine, was unlike any conference room 200 kilometers (124 miles) to the east, in Russia.
The Latvian National Library's theater this Saturday was filled with the white-blue-white flags symbolizing "a free Russia" that the participants believe will come once the current Russian tricolor and Kremlin habitant have entered the 'waste bin of history.'
The presenters spoke in no uncertain terms that Ukraine would win the war Russia is waging against it. Giving testament to their deep faith in Putin's ultimate defeat, the attendees listened to panels with names like "The collapse of Russian aggression and the victory of Ukraine: Effects on the internal and external politics of Russia," and conversed about the legal mechanisms that could be used to organize tribunals and justice for Putin and his henchmen.
Garry Kasparov's Free Russia Forum, organizer of this fourth Anti-War Conference, has seen a steady growth in the number of attendees. Mantas Adomenas, the Lithuanian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, reminded those attending that it is "fatalism of the highest degree" when people today say that Russia has never been a democracy and never will be a democracy.
Rather, world history shows that change is common and the West needs to keep an eye on what the future of Russia would be.
The Deputy Foreign Minister, speaking to the Kyiv Post in a polished British accent, picked up while doing his PhD in Classics at Cambridge, rejected those who can be seen in the media, projecting that Russia will "disappear" following the war.
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Rather, the diplomat said that there "will still be a Russia when this war is over and Ukraine wins. Discussing how that future Russia is shaped and what values it holds, is something that is worth discussing." Riga's former Ambassador to Moscow, Māris Riekstiņš, who served there 2017-2023 and was earlier the Foreign Minister of Latvia 2007-2010, stressed that though time passes, the world must continue to pay attention to events as they unfold in Ukraine.
Among the Ukrainians who attended the event, Taras Betezovets, a well-known Ukrainian television host who joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces after the full-scale invasion began, was expected to speak, but was not granted leave in time by the Army, according to the organizers.
According to Ivan Tyutrin, an organizer of the event, the long-divided Russian democratic opposition, after the full-scale invasion on February 24, has become united for the first time since 2011.
Tyutrin, speaking to the Kyiv Post, lamented that despite "the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Russian opposition could not unite. We could talk to each other; though we could not articulate a common position, because the two opposition groups did not clearly articulate their position on Crimea," noting that his organization, the Free Russia Forum, which he co-founded with Kasparov, "was the only entity that clearly articulated its position on the annexation of the peninsula.
Starting almost immediately after the full-scale invasion began, according to Tyutrin, the Russian democratic opposition began to adopt the positions of the Free Russia Forum in regards to Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty, which has given the diverse democrats of Russia a "serious basis for working together."
Though hard to imagine, on a stage in front of a backdrop branded with Ukrainian and "Free Russia '' flags overlapping and the blue-and-yellow slogan "Victory for Ukraine!," Russians made plans of how to abet Ukraine's victory, something that they believe is nearer everyday.
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