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Ukrainian President Zelensky addresses Latin America at UC Chile

In a videoconference organized by UC Chile, the president of Ukraine, Volodymir Zelenskyy, stressed the importance of knowing the truth about what is happening in his nation and called on the region's leaders and its people to collaborate with the reconstruction of his country. It was the first time he spoke directly to the Latin American audience since the war began, and he answered questions from students, journalists, academics and UC Chile President Ignacio Sánchez.

President Zelenskyy Videoconferences at UC Chile.

photo_camera President Zelenskyy spoke at UC Chile about the drama experienced by Ukrainian families and the Ukrainian population regarding deportations, arrests and deaths (Photo: UC Communications).

"What matters for us is that Latin American countries know the truth about what is happening with Ukraine and share it with others." 

This was one of the main messages addressed by President Volodymir Zelenskyy in a videoconference held in the Hall of Honor of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC Chile). The conference was broadcast live by Emol, Grupo de Diarios América, the Youtube channel of UC Chile and a network of almost 230 universities in Chile and the world.

The president also called on the region's countries to join the international economic pressure against the government of Vladimir Putin. 

"I want them to join these policies of sanctions, carried out by the United States and Canada, of not maintaining trade with Russia, so that the Russians understand that they pay a high price for aggression," he said. 

He argued that "civilized and democratic instruments" should be used, such as preventing Russian tourists from travelling to other countries.

The virtual meeting with President Zelenskyy included questions from students, academics and journalists and was the first one held with the Latin American audience. Its main objective was to learn about the reality of the Ukrainian population and how the war has affected their lives. 

The armed conflict has generated heavy deaths of soldiers and civilians and Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II's end. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 5.6 million refugees have been registered in Europe, and it is estimated that more than 7.1 million have been displaced within the territory.

The Ukrainian leader began his speech by pointing out that the war did not start on February 24, 2022, but in 2014 with Russia's annexation of Crimea.

"The main motive of Russian aggression against Ukrainians is of colonization character. The Russians want to dominate our lands and resources," Zelenskyy stated.

In the dialogue held at UC Chile, the head of state referred to the drama experienced by Ukrainian families and the population in connection with deportations, arrests and deaths. 

"They came to our land to eliminate us. They do not want intermediaries. What they are interested in is completely dominating Ukraine". 

He was emphatic regarding the possibility of a future reconciliation with the neighboring country. "They stole our hearts, our souls, our lives. That's why there will be no forgiveness. But we will never try to take revenge," the president added. 

Dialogue with the university community 

Along with thanking President Zelenskyy for his willingness to talk and share his thoughts about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its complex consequences, the president of UC Chile, Ignacio Sánchez, stressed that "from our university we have the conviction that the only possible way to move forward harmoniously among nations is dialogue, the search for consensus and commitment to peace". 

He added that "being able to talk with those who think differently and work collaboratively is what will ultimately lead us to stabilize and lasting changes in global coexistence".

Mr Sánchez emphasized the efforts made by various organizations and courts to ensure that international law is respected, as well as the work of specialized agencies such as UNHCR, the Human Rights Council and UNICEF to alleviate the effects of war on the civilian population. 

The university authority expressed his hope that "this instance of dialogue can be projected to all Latin America and the Caribbean from our university, and through Emol, the Grupo de Diarios de América and a network of almost 230 universities in Chile and the world, in the hope that this devastating war can have a prompt solution".

During the videoconference, different people intervened with questions:

Among the topics that President Zelenskyy was asked about was how Chile could contribute to Ukraine in its effort to maintain its sovereignty.

Mr Zelenksy invited students, architects, professionals and leaders in the region to contribute to the renovation and recovery programs being implemented in Ukraine.

"There are countries that chose to help us in certain regions and cities, and they are rebuilding together," he said. In that sense, he stressed that it is crucial "to invite students because they are usually quicker to understand and are full of energy that can add to society."

Collaboration from Chile and UC Chile  

As soon as the Russian aggression began five months ago, the Chilean government, through its President, Gabriel Boric, condemned "the invasion of Ukraine, the violation of its sovereignty and the illegitimate use of force". It also expressed its concern for the victims of the war. 

UC Chile has also demonstrated solidarity with the Ukrainian people through several initiatives. 

President Ignacio Sánchez recalled that exchange opportunities had been opened for students and academics who needed to migrate through the Catholic University of Ukraine.

An agreement will soon be signed between UC Chile and the Chilean Ministry of the Interior and Public Security through the UC Chile Faculty of Literature initiative and the language program "Español UC", to provide Spanish classes to Ukrainian citizens who have arrived in Chile.

Likewise, there is also a group of professionals trained at UC Chile, led by the director of Thought Group, Cristian Wittig, who is working on the development of a specific planning and execution project for the reconstruction of the city of Irpin, where they will develop four architectural projects: 

  • A Memorial for the Victims of the Massacre of Civilians in Irpin and Bucha, 
  • the remodeling of the Irpin Public Library
  • the new Library and Cultural Center of the Society of Writers and Poets of Irpin, 
  • and the creation of a Master Strategic Plan for the Future Development of the city. 

Almost 80% of Irpin's buildings and infrastructure were destroyed.

President Sánchez also thanked Vladyslav Bohorad, Chargé d'Affaires of Ukraine in Chile, for his essential collaboration in coordinating the meeting and for various parliamentarians who contributed.

"This possibility to listen to the Head of State of Ukraine about the situation in our country, which is fighting for our freedom, is a significant event. I am very grateful to the UC Chile president for his collaboration. Many people have had the possibility to listen to President Zelenskyy to know what is happening in Ukraine and the challenges we have as a country", expressed the diplomat.

The director of the UC Center for International Studies, Jorge Sahd, said that it was "an activity of high impact for the university, which opened the doors of an excruciating conflict, the war that is being lived, to Latin America". 

He added that the event "reaffirms the public commitment of UC Chile, the promotion of values that are universal, having the opportunity of the first-hand testimony of President Zelenskyy also contributes to raise awareness and to reflect on what should be the role of the countries of Latin America, of the universities, in particular, to try to promote conditions of peace in a world that today is very tense". 

As President Sánchez concludes: 

"The great value for UC Chile of listening to President Zelenskyy's lecture and participating by asking questions has been to have first-hand knowledge of his impressions on this devastating war".

And he added: "Unfortunately, the international community has been almost anesthetized by the duration of the conflict, and in Latin America, we had not had any live experience to talk with President Zelenskyy, that is why the expectation in the region, from eleven countries through their media. The fact that he has chosen Chile and UC Chile speaks of the presence and prestige of our institution".


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