Report from GN Conference and
Study Tour to Russia
From: Dave Webb
April 25 - May 9 2019
Our translators and Guides
We were endebted to our wonderful guides and translators for their knoweledge, understanding and patience! Although everyone we met was extremely friendly and helpful, not everyone spoke english so their presence was invaluable.
Ilderkin Leonid, was active in different public organizations in Ukraine since 1989. There he was responsible for different duties such as social engineering, designing of the organizational structure, description of procedures and regulations, fundraising, management and monitoring of social projects, organization and conducting of trainings, seminars and conferences, working with the media, developing and implementing PR plans of the organizations (public relations). Leonid also participated in different volunteer programs, social programs, etc.
Since 2010 he was assistant to a district Council member in Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine). He also was head of Department of the headquarters of the election campaign on elections to the Verkhovna Rada (the Parliament) of Ukraine in Dnepropetrovsk.
After the start of civil conflict in Ukraine, he was forced to leave the country. Now he is a member of the Coordination Council of the Union of Political Emigrants and Political Prisoners of Ukraine. Leonid lives outside of Moscow, Russia and speaks 10 languages.
Tatiana Bukharina is a native of Crimea living in Yalta. She graduated as an English teacher and interpreter ans has worked extensively as an interpreter and guide in the tourist industry in Crimea. She has been involved in citizen diplomacy, welcoming and meeting visitors from other countries to advance peace and mutual understanding. In 2015 she helped establish an NGO that unites local groups through history, culture and guiding to ptomot Crimean history and heritage. After the Crimean Spring in 2014 that have been involved in citizen and public diplomacy projects with American and British colleagues.
Speeches on Day 2
Vladimir Sadkov, Chairman of the Russian public organisation “Union of Officers”, Member of the Presidium of international non-governmental association “All-Slavic Union”, Member of the Presidium and represeantive of Russia in the International Slavic Committee, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Union of Geopolitics.
Alexander Pasechnik, Chairman, Veterans for Peace, Komi, Russia. Gave an honest and moving speech in which he clearly stated that the people of Russia do not want war - they have had horrific experiences of that. However, they have families and children and are prepared to defend their country, even with nuclear weapons, if they are forced to.
In his blog, Bruce reported some of his words:
Russian VFP was created 25 years ago. Russian veterans from Afghanistan war heard about US VFP. We created the Russian VFP organization.
In the early years we could attend the US VFP conventions but after the US-NATO Yugoslavia war we could not get Visa to the US anymore.
There are no differences between us on a human level.
We want to live in peace here in Russia but we won't be reduced to dust.
We want normal communication between our nations.
Having our intended larger international VFP conference in May in St Petersburg was made impossible by the growing tensions between our countries. We hope to do it next year.
Sanctions on Russia are having minimal impact. Sanctions forced us to do more domestic production.
Russian VFP is against war, but we have to respond when we are provoked or any country pushes us.
The War in Chechnya could not have happened without external involvement [Pentagon/CIA].
During the time of the Soviet Union there was balance in the world. Now there is no balance. Russia is trying to restore balance. We'd be happy to stay in our country. But bases are now being placed by our borders [Poland, Romania, Sweden, Norway, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, etc].
What would you do if you were in Putin's place when somebody pushes you and pushes you?
We have internal problems [18% poverty] here and would rather spend our money here.
The US openly supported the 2014 coup in Ukraine.
Vladimir Kozin, Expert Council member of the Russian Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Professor of the Academy of Military Science, Moscow, former high-ranking diplomat, leading expert on disarmament and strategic stability issues. Author of “US Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Reduction or Modernization” and “Evolution of the US Missile Defense Beyond 2040 and Russia’s Stance”.
The speeches were followed by the joint signing of a statement of solidarity between the Veterans for Peace in Russia and Maine.
Bruce reported on how he had carried the agreement that was first signed by Maine VFP President Doug Rawlings to Moscow and that he will deliver copies of the signed statement back to Maine on behalf of the Russian VFP. He was also asked by Alexander Rassokhin (Russian Vfp President) to also carry the Russian version of the VFP flag to Doug.
Alexander made a good impression on the study tour group. he called himself a 'simple man' and spoke from his heart. He gave direct and honest answers to our questions and demonstrated how direct and open communication can help build trust and understanding. As Bruce says:
"threats, deceit, badgering,
intimidation and bravado (which the US routinely does with Russia and other
nations) is not the way to build a peaceful relationship."
Speeches on Day 3
"Russia - Yesterday and Today"
Natalia Semina - spoke on "Russia and the Crimea's Common History: twice and for all". She described how the history of Russia and Crimea has been intertwined for centuries.
Elena Veduta – Professor from Moscow University, head of Strategic Planning Department of the Faculty of State Governing.
Constantin Semin - filmmaker and activist reflecting on Russia's political/economic situation