Hell on earth – Romanians going to Kyiv, Bucha, Irpin
Romanians have been able to see footage from the Ukrainian war zones. These were filmed by USR MEP Vlad Gheorghe and USR MEPs Diana Stoica and Filip Havârneanu. The three Romanian dignitaries were part of the official delegation that went to Ukraine. Other important political figures were part of the mission. Some of them are the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell and Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger.
They are the first Romanian officials to arrive in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion on 24 February. Their testimonies from the bomb-hit cities are a veritable war diary.
“To participate to this mission, we had to follow strict rules to protect ourselves and those who accompanied us. We travelled in a night train with the lights off and were not allowed to communicate in real time. We could only discuss about our visit after we had completed it. Telephones were switched off and we had a military escort with us throughout our trip. We were all given protective equipment – helmets and bulletproof vests which together weighed over 25 kg. We only wore them for one day. Imagine what it’s like for the men and women fighting who wear them non-stop on the frontline”, says Vlad Gheorghe.
First stop: Kyiv
The delegation of 35 national and EU parliamentarians from 11 countries had a strict schedule. Their first stop was in Kiev, at the Verkhovna Rada – the Ukrainian legislature. There they were received by Ukrainian officials led by the Speaker of the Parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk and the former Deputy Prime Minister, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze.
“We have passed through numerous checkpoints. Despite heroically resisting Russian attacks, Kyiv is still a city ready for siege. The streets are almost deserted, there are checkpoints and barricades everywhere. The Parliament building is also barricaded. Its windows covered, and the military forces deployed show you beyond doubt that you are in a war zone, as you can see from the few photos we were allowed to take”, says the USR MEP.
Military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, support for EU integration, sanctions on Russia and punishment of war criminals
The European delegation signed the memorandum of support “Declaration of Unity for European Ukraine” in Kyiv. This was done together with their Ukrainian counterparts on behalf of the entire network of United 4 Ukraine parliamentarians. The signed document briefly reiterates European commitments, including those contained in the latest European Parliament resolution. More precisely, it concerns military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, support for EU integration, sanctions on Russia and punishment of war criminals.
“Last but not least, the act provides for aid for the reconstruction of Ukraine. This is a point I made in my proposal to create a European Fund that would include the frozen assets of oligarchs. This is a Marshall Plan for Ukraine, funded primarily by the culprit, namely Russia. My proposal was voted by the EP plenary in the resolution on Ukraine. I am glad it is also part of this memorandum”, explains Vlad Gheorghe. The Romanian MEP together with his colleagues in the Renew Europe group called for the most drastic sanctions on Russia and Vladimir Putin: a total embargo on oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas imports.
Crimes against humanity: Bucha & Irpin
The most painful part of the trip to Ukraine was undoubtedly the visit to Bucha and Irpin. Witnessing the scenes of massacres committed by Russian troops was unbearable. The destruction is horrific: the villages have been almost teared to the ground. The landscape is apocalyptic.
“The smell is one of burning and everything around you gives you the shivers. There are rubbles under which you know the bodies of bombed-out families still lie in their own homes. You could see the charred carcasses of vehicles in which you know people trying to save themselves were killed. Human remains were scattered everywhere and attesting to the massacres. The silence is deathly! The areas are deserted, the infrastructure destroyed. The survivors have effectively nothing to return to in these localities. Ukrainian authorities and rescue teams are still recovering bodies from mass graves. We saw with our own eyes one such grave with 18 bodies, all civilians”, says the USR MEP who has photo-video documented the aftermath of the Russian attacks in Bucha and Irpin.
“You see bloody toys on the rubble and all you can think about is that those children who were playing with them are gone. You see houses in ruins with the remains of furniture, clothes, everything a family like yours has, but the family in that house is gone. You see the contorted wreckage of cars, the luggage still in them, burned, but the occupants of the car are gone. You see pieces of human limbs unearthed in mass graves. It’s horrifying to look at something like that, we can’t imagine, the human mind can’t conceive how to experience that”, explains Vlad Gheorghe emotionally.
We need to stop Putin
“I am a lawyer and it is my professional opinion, beyond the emotions that naturally overwhelm you at the sight of these horrors, that these are war crimes that must be punished as such. The Ukrainian authorities are taking all the necessary steps for evidence to identify the killers. But one thing is clear: everyone must see these images. The international community must support the punishment of the culprits not only through statements, but through the necessary measures in all competent fora”, says Gheorghe.
“I was asked why we went there – exactly why, so that our testimonies would be extra evidence to put pressure and show the world that the situation in Ukraine is indeed as reported by Ukrainian officials, the international press, humanitarian organisations. We urgently need to do more for Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s Russia will not stop, the threat and aftermath of attacks do not stop at the borders. Europe is now showing the importance of its unity”, believes the USR MEP.
Vlad Gheorghe is the creator of Romania’s largest public group for volunteers helping Ukrainians. There are currently over 278,000 members on the group United for Ukraine – Об’εднанi за Украiну – and the number is growing steadily. Here Ukrainians find shelter, transport, jobs, donations of items, clothes, food, necessary information and any other help they need after leaving their homes for fear of bombs.