Interview with Navid Kerman for Ukraine: “First a genocide must be proved” | Society Culture phase BR

Russia’s war against Ukraine is entering its third month and is still dominating the headlines. At the same time, however, a sharp effect has inevitably set in for many people. Navid Kermani has a direct impression of what is happening. The German-Iranian journalist and winner of the Peace Prize in the German book trade traveled extensively to Ukraine in 2016 and recently again on behalf of “Zeit” to get an updated photo.

Christoph Leidbold: You have just returned from a week in Ukraine. Where exactly were you and what images probably do not come out of your head so quickly?

Navid Kermani: I traveled to Lviv and took the night train to Kiev, and from Kiev by car to Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, a rather ruined city from which the Russians had withdrawn. And I have also traveled to these famous places, like Bucha and Irpin.

Over two months of war. Putin’s Blitzkrieg fantasies have failed and Ukraine has proven extremely resilient. What is the “morale” of the population, as it was called during the war? Are people being consumed slowly?

No, and this is also the main difference between Russia and Ukraine. When I was there in 2016, this war was far away even in Ukraine itself. The Ukrainian fighters in Donbas I spoke to also felt abandoned by their country. There was much criticism of the Ukrainian state and society. Now it is completely different. Now, in remote Lviv, as everywhere else, there is a collection, activists gather, young people, schoolchildren 14, 15 years old are active.

You spoke of shame because six years ago, when you were there, everyone was warning of war – only in the West was it not taken seriously. Did this shame grow again when you were there?

You meet again people who predicted in 2016 what has happened now. At the same time, these people are also surprised that in the end it turned out that way and that it hit Kiev so fast. Apparently no one expected this. And it does not matter if I am ashamed now or if we are ashamed, it is about: What is right now, what is wrong? What can you see with your own eyes? What are you observing? And these are crucial moments, not so much your state of mind.

Here it is discussed: Handing over weapons – yes or no? After all, the energy embargo: yes or no? Germany is very hesitant in many respects. Was it held against you by the Ukrainian side?

Yes, very strong, you can say. And this is sometimes not entirely right, because Germany is already doing a lot, financing a lot, accepting refugees. But at the same time the perception is different. Germany is perceived as hesitant, as slow. And this applies not only to arms shipments, but above all to the gas and oil embargo. We need to understand that whatever the chancellor says, we continue to help every day in financing the war with oil and gas supplies. And if you then see that the price of oil has risen in recent weeks, then the war seems to be almost refinancing.

Despite the criticism of Germany and the West, did you have the feeling that people were happy it was someone who was interested? Or do they say that we actually have completely different things to do than explain our situation to you?

No, they are really happy. They are happy when people come and can report. In the villages there are also people who are still very lonely and rejoice when someone comes. You are welcomed very, very happy and warmly.

Many voices in Ukraine are in favor of a boycott not only of the Russian economy, but also of Russian culture. They think this is the wrong way, so they are against the boycott of Russian civil society. Can you say something like that out loud in Ukraine?

Yes, you can say that, and it is being discussed in Ukraine as well. For that I was there: to discuss something like that! That you understand even though smart, intelligent, sensitive artists and writers think you should have nothing to do with Russian culture at the moment. This is not a general cultural boycott, but a call to end the relationship at the moment. And you can object to that and not accept everything without criticism.

There is no doubt on which side Germany should stand in this war. And yet in war all sides work with propaganda. For all the sensitivity to people in Ukraine, should you be careful not to be the subject of Ukrainian propaganda when traveling there?

Yes absolutely. So say the Ukrainians themselves, for example, I spoke with the head of the Institute of National Memory of Ukraine, one of the representatives of state institutions, who says very clearly: we should not exaggerate. For example the concept of genocide. This is a clear legal term. We can not throw it there like that. There are plenty of proven crimes, but we have to stick to the facts. And of course there is a tendency to increase everything to immeasurable proportions, but that does no good to anyone. What crimes are happening, what can be noticed, is quite bad. A genocide must first be proven before the term can be used.

The conversation took place on April 26, 2022 at kulturWelt in Bayern 2. You can watch the podcast for the show here Subscribe to.

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