Ukrainian ambassador warns of global impact of war with Russia during Ohio visit
cleveland.com November 18, 2023
CLEVELAND, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova visited Cleveland Friday, alongside Ohio’s former Sen. Rob Portman to highlight developments in Ukraine’s war with Russia, commend military contributions from the U.S. and urge Ohioans to be vocal with their elected officials about supporting Ukraine, as the conflict continues.
“Where we are now, we would not be able to do that and to defend ourselves, without the support of all Americans. And it has been essential,” said Markarova, before describing the difficulty Ukraine has experienced defending the 800-mile front line, while enduring a constant artillery battle.
Markarova and Portman spoke at a City Club of Cleveland forum before participating in a panel discussion at Cleveland State University. Marakarova has served as the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S. since April 2021. Previously, she was Ukraine’s minister of finance and worked in the finance industry.
Markarova told the City Club attendees that Ukrainians will “stay the course” and continue to fight until they win, but that’s going to require their allies to provide more weapons and support.
“We don’t have any other alternative,” Markarova said of the war that began after Russia, without provocation, invaded Ukraine in February 2022. “We have to win it for the sake of Ukraine, but we also have to win it for the sake of all of us, for the sake of anyone who thinks that democracy has to win.”
Portman, who previously served as the co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, called Ukraine’s defense a fight for freedom. Failing to defend Ukraine sends a risky message around the world that no one will stand up to protect the right to be free, which could have serious consequences for the United States.
“Today that fight is being fought in various places around the world …. but no place more distinctly about freedom than Ukraine,” Portman said. “We need to stop it, now. We need to free Ukraine, and up and be counted.”
Markarova said freedom and democracy are dearly valued among Ukrainians, and that freedom, specifically, is an asset that all should cherish, regardless of where they live, their political leanings or aspirations.
“So, for us, it’s a long struggle for our independence, and in this century, finally, our generation can do it,” Markarova said. “To be free is something that Ukrainians will never compromise on.”
Portman shared a story from a 2014 visit to Ukraine, during which he said he found a country with a deep resolve to solidify their independence and freedom, despite sacrifice.
“What I found was a country that had made a decision, and the decision was not just to kick out a government that was corrupt. It was a decision to be like us, it was a decision by Ukraine to choose freedom and democracy,” Portman said. “It was a very deliberate and brave decision, and the blood of those martyrs and others were there to show for it.”
Speaking of his home state, Portman highlighted the deep connection Ohioans have to Ukraine and the commitment many businesses and citizens have shown, by stepping up their years-long support.
“It is amazing the amount of humanitarian assistance that has come just from Northeast Ohio,” Portman said. “It’s the police department in Cleveland that’s providing helmets and protective gear, it’s MedWish (that) has provided tons of hospital equipment and other medical needs to Ukraine.”
The forum closed with a question-and-answer session with the audience, during which Markarova said she often speaks with those who don’t support providing aid for the fight against Russia. And often, she can win the hearts and minds of dissenters with an honest discussion, explaining why failing to defend against Russia’s unprovoked attack has repercussions that echo around the world, she said.
She told the audience and those tuning in virtually that now is the time to call and write their representatives in Congress.
“If you ask people, ‘Do we have to help those who fight for freedom?’ … then they understand it,” Markarova said.
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