Vladimir Putin‘s Russia must face a reckoning over the war in Ukraine or else history will be doomed to repeat itself in chilling echoes of the end of the Second World War, a panel of MPs and experts have warned.
Kyle Parker, a prominent Washington DC staffer, Tory MP Bob Seely and Kira Rudyk, deputy head of Ukraine’s parliament, joined voices with Bill Browder, an investor and personal enemy of Vladimir Putin, and Ukrainian army medic Yuliia Paievska, who was tortured by Russia, to issue a warning from history about the future of the war.
Speaking at the Henry Jackson Society, Mr Parker told MailOnline that Putin’s invasion is ‘really a continuation of the Second World War’ and that: ‘Two belligerents kicked that off… one of those poisonous ideologies was completely vanquished and rebuilt [but] the other never was.’
Failing to hold Putin’s Russia to account in the same way as Stalin’s Soviet Union – by accepting a peace deal that cedes parts of Ukraine to Moscow, or grants Putin and his circle legal immunity – would repeat that mistake and mean Russia remains a threat to the next generation, the panel argued.
Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin are pictured at the Yalta Conference where Europe’s fate after the Second World War was decided, and which allowed Russian war crimes to to unreckoned
A pregnant woman is pictured outside a hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, after it was bombed by Russian jets in the early weeks of the war
Ms Rudyk, struggling to hold back tears as she spoke, said Ukraine is now facing two futures: One in which Putin escapes and her country is forced to become a permanent ‘military state… because we will always be near a neighbour that wants to destroy us.’
In the other, Russia is confronted and defeated – allowing the country a chance to comes to terms with its legacy of empire and rebuild differently.
‘Right now that would be the goal,’ she said. ‘Because I don’t see a person or organisation in the world who can say: We will make sure that Russia will not attack you again.
‘One thing we owe to our children, to the next generation that right now is suffering all the atrocities of the war… is to make sure they they would not have to fight this war again. That we will fight it and make sure it is not repeated.’
Mr Parker agreed, adding: ‘The only way we get to a situation… where Ukraine doesn’t have to worry about its neighbour, [is when there is] a collective accounting of the past. Ukraine is giving us another opportunity to do that right.
‘It’s at least my view that as long as the Russian Federation is an internal empire, it will attempt to act as an external one as well. And that it what we see in this colonial, genocidal war in Ukraine.’
Mr Seely added: ‘One of the totalitarian states survived World War Two and was actually progressed by it as well. It is not until we see a moral equivalence between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union where I think we will get to see a correct version of the 20th Century.
‘Murdering millions in the name of racial purity is not fundamentally morally different from murdering in the name of class purity.’
The Second World War began in 1939 when Hitler and Stalin, having divided Europe between themselves with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, jointly invaded Poland – Germany on September 1 and Soviet Russia on September 17.
Vladimir Putin has denied that any Russian troops are deliberately targeting civilians, despite plentiful evidence to the contrary
A mass grave uncovered close to a church in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, where more than 400 civilians were found to have been killed – some after being tortured
Tanya Nedashkivs’ka, 57, weeps in the street over the death of her husband who was found killed as Ukrainian forces liberated the city of Bucha
But Hitler soon betrayed Stalin and invaded Russia through Poland, forcing Moscow into an alliance of convenience with Britain and the US.
When the in Europe ended, Hitler’s henchmen were dragged to Nuremberg and held to account for war crimes and crimes against humanity but the Soviets avoided a reckoning of their own – even cynically trying to blame the massacre of 22,000 captured Poles in Katyn Forest on the Nazis.
Now, with Putin’s armies occupying Ukrainian territory amid widespread evidence of kidnappings, torture and summary executions there is the depressing sense that history is repeating itself – leading to the fear that it may repeat itself yet again if Putin escapes without being held to account.
Yuliia, who served alongside the Azov Battalion in Mariupol and endured the siege of Azovstal before being captured and tortured by Russia, said Putin relies upon three things to ensure his day of reckoning does not come.
She told MailOnline: ‘One is the propaganda which has immense influence on their internal audience. [Second is] their armed forces and police who are trained to torture and to murder prisoners. And three is a somewhat decent level of life for normal Russians – as long as they [can get by] then they will stay quiet.
‘We can see that police and the army are failing massively right now. And obviously sanctions are targeting the normal level of life for Russians.
‘Propaganda is the biggest problem to tackle because it is very well structured and financed, they have their written protocols and you can see how well they are using that machine.’
Mr Browder, who once ran Russia’s largest foreign investment firm before falling foul of Putin after he uncovered a tax fraud scheme that implicated the Kremlin, urged Western leaders to massively step up support for Ukraine.
‘We’re supporting Ukraine enough so that it doesn’t lose but we’re not supporting Ukraine so Ukraine wins.
‘There are specific, clear, identifiable requests that Ukraine makes every day – why is it taking 100 missiles before we start seriously transferring air defence systems to Ukraine? Why does it take the massacre of civilians in Bucha before we send more aid. The whole thing is too little, too late.’
He added: ‘For years I told people: This is a murderous regime. Russia is not a country, it is a criminal enterprise, it murders, it covers up its crimes, and does the most atrocious things. And for the most part people didn’t listen, and now we are where we are with Ukraine, and people are still not listening.
‘There’s talk about saving face for Putin and negotiations – this is a guy who wants to destroy the world. We have a big problem and it is nowhere near being solved.’
The remains of a theatre in Mariupol which was being used to shelter civilians is pictured after it was hit by a Russian bomb, killing hundreds
A Ukrainian police officer examines a cell with the words of the Lord’s Prayer are written on the wall inside a suspected Russian torture chamber in Kharkiv
Members of Ukrainian Emergency Service, police and experts work at a mass burial site in the town of Izium, northern Ukraine
NATO allies are currently in talks to supply advanced air defences, including Patriot missiles, to Ukraine in order to protect its power plants and water pumping stations after they were bombarded by Russia in an attempt to freeze people out of their homes.
The US and other Western nations backing Kyiv have vowed to keep up their support for ‘as long as it takes’ to achieve victory, but have not clearly defined what that means – saying it is up to Zelensky to decide.
He has been clear, saying that victory will be achieved when the last Russian soldiers leaves Ukrainian territory including Crimea, which he said will be where the war ends.
But discussions have yet to seriously begin on supplying Kyiv with the kinds of weapons it needs to push Russia back over its borders, including advanced tanks, fighter jets, and other heavy weapons. Meanwhile, rumours of peace negotiations and some kind of deal between Kyiv and the Kremlin continue to swirl.
Western nations have also not made clear the future of sanctions imposed on Russia when it started the war, including being shut out of the international banking system, bans on key energy exports, and embargos on trading key components for Russian weapon systems to Moscow.
Mr Parker insisted the policy should be that ‘not one ruble’ of sanctions relief is given until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored in its entirety, while Mr Browder and Ms Rudyk went further – saying that $350billion in frozen Russian central bank assets should be sent to Ukraine in order to pay for reconstruction.
Ms Rudyk said at least $150billion in frozen oligarch wealth should also be diverted to the rebuilding effort, though she hopes that more money than that can be retrieved when investigators begin looking into where and how the money has been stored.
Meanwhile James Cleverly, the UK foreign secretary, has called for Vladimir Putin to face trial for war crimes over atrocities committed in Ukraine with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen saying she will try and create a UN-backed court to prosecute Russia’s military and political leaders.
Such a move may seem impossible at the moment, Ms Rudyk said, but added that many ‘impossible things’ have already taken place during the war.
‘At the beginning of the war, nobody believed that we will stand for more than two or three days,’ she said.
‘Then, nobody believed that we will receive heavy weapons and will be able to operate them. Then, nobody believed that we would get candidacy to the European Union. Then, nobody believed that we are capable of counter-attacking. Then, nobody believed we will liberate Kherson.
‘Right now we are at the point where nobody believes that we will take back all of our territories and our sovereignty. Nobody believes that we will become a member of NATO, nobody believes that we are going to rebuild out country, nobody believes that we are going to confiscate all the assets of Russia and nobody believes there will be a tribunal where Putin and his inner circle will be sitting on the bench.
‘I want to tell you something: The most important thing is that we believe in that.’