In his latest Ukraine Call to Action message shared with Global Citizen on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the Russian invasion of Ukraine a “genocide,” saying the people of his country have been “deprived” of their fundamental rights.
Zelenskyy began the video by invoking his country’s right to self-determination and the intrinsic worth and equality of all human beings. He then went on to describe the horrific toll of the war, including the deliberate targeting by Russia’s military of hospitals, schools, and residential buildings.
“This just cannot be a spontaneous initiative of the military of the Russian Federation,” he said. “It’s obvious that they received exactly this harsh order to deliberately destroy Ukrainian people.”
The impact of the war worsens by the hour. Nearly 1,200 civilians have been killed in the conflict, and more than 1.7 million people have become refugees after fleeing Ukraine, according to the United Nations.
Zelenskyy described the ways in which Ukraine is becoming unrecognizable.
“During this time, [a] very short time, 211 schools have been destroyed by airstrikes and shelling, 34 hospitals, thousands of residential buildings, and tens of thousands of regular apartments,” he said. “It is even impossible right now to count everything. Boiler rooms, and that happened in winter time, factories, bridges. They are even killing children, executing families, churches — they are bombing our holy places.”
Journalist Katie Couric discussed Zelenskyy’s video message with David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee.
In the interview, Miliband said there are clear parallels between what’s happening in Ukraine and earlier conflicts that were later deemed genocidal.
“The attacks also on civilians that are being chronicled in real time thanks to global media, and the globalization of media, obviously make this crisis very different, and kind of turned President Zelenskyy into a modern-day Churchill or a modern-day Roosevelt speaking in real time in an extraordinary way, both to his own people and to a global audience,” he said.
Miliband also said that the refugee crisis emerging out of Ukraine is happening far faster than the Syrian exodus in 2011, and that the number of internally displaced people is rising exponentially.
“There are people who are trapped either because they can't move themselves, the elderly or the disabled, all because the cities are under siege and they fear getting killed by mortar, as the family featured in much of the media were over the weekend,” he said.
“Now there's also a second group, though, who are on the move inside the country. They fled from their own hometown, and they're moving west because the Russian advance has not yet reached the west of the country. And so those are the internally displaced, and there are humanitarian agencies like the International Rescue Committee, which have extensive experience of how to reach both besieged populations.”
The IRC is on the front lines of the world’s conflicts, natural disasters, and other crises, helping people recover from extreme hardship and put their lives back together. In 2020, the organization helped bring health care to 31 million people, clean water to 2.6 million people, and education to 800,000 children.
The organization currently has a team dispatched to Poland that’s helping to provide food, medical care, and emergency support services to families who fled Ukraine amid the violence.
But the scale of displacement demands the mobilization of enormous resources and international cooperation to provide adequate safe havens in the weeks and months ahead. The UN is calling for $1.7 billion in emergency humanitarian funding.
“This is obviously still very early days,” Miliband said. “We're not yet two weeks into this invasion, this conflict, this war. And so standing up provision is something that's a real priority.”
You can take action with us now to support the people impacted by the invasion of Ukraine, rally for lifesaving aid, and call for peace.
Read the full transcript of Zelenskyy’s second call to action below:
Every person has a right for life, for safety, for happiness. All people are born equally free in their dignity and their rights.
The same as nations. Every nation has the right for life without taking anything from the others.
Every nation has the right for safety, for happiness, happiness for itself, for its families and the loved ones.
All nations are equal in their rights, and none can be the master for other nations.
These are the basics for everyone. It is known everywhere.
The fundamental rules for normal cohabitation in the world, peaceful, with respect for each other.
The Ukrainian nation is now deprived of the fundamental rights, deprived of primary things.
When Russia came to our territory, it brought death, it brought cruise missiles, bombs, artillery, saboteurs.
It kills civilians, destroys our infrastructure, simply because we are Ukrainians.
Just imagine, because we are free people, because we are free to make our own choices simply because we have our culture, (we have to have it), which they humiliate.
The same way Nazis committed horrible things with everyone they wanted to eliminate.
Today is the 12th day of the war, the full-scale war of Russia against Ukraine.
During this time, a very short time, 211 schools have been destroyed by airstrikes and shelling, 34 hospitals, thousands of residential buildings and tens of thousands of regular apartments.
It is even impossible right now to count everything.
Boiler rooms, and that happened in winter time, factories, bridges.
They are even killing children, executing families, churches — they are bombing our holy places.
They even managed to shoot the second time the victims of the Holocaust.
So that was it when they aimed their missiles at Babyn Yar, the burial place of thousands of people killed by Nazis during the World War II.
Jews… Roms… Ukrainians… This is what this war of Russia against Ukraine is about.
This just cannot be a spontaneous initiative of the military of the Russian Federation.
It’s obvious that they received exactly this harsh order to deliberately destroy Ukrainian people.
The order to launch cruise missiles. The order to drop aero bombs and iron out regular houses with direct fire of artillery ruin blocks of high-rise buildings so that we have nothing — nor freedom, nor happiness, nor safety.
To kill us. Methodically. To conquer us step by step, to intimidate us for forever.
Now we should qualify correctly the actions for the Russian military: It’s genocide. By its classical definition. Genocide is not only a complete destruction of a nation or a particular group. It is a deliberate destruction of the basis of people’s lives.
The Russian military does everything so that Ukrainians do not have a chance, a chance to simply live.
Live independently. Live safely. So that Ukrainians stop being Ukrainians.
For that there will be a tribunal for each one who gave these shameful orders, those who killed, those who justified this genocide working for the propaganda for years.
But this will happen later. This will happen afterwards and will happen for sure.
And now we must stop genocide! The governments of the world have such power.
Remember about Ukraine, act for our country, act for Ukraine, impose new sanctions against Russia. It’s fair. Force business of your country to leave the Russian market.
You can’t pay for genocide. It’s disgraceful! Because after that, the murderers will come to you.
Millions of Ukrainians have a full right to live. [The] Ukrainian nation has the right to live.
Glory to Ukraine.