This week marks the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. commonspace.eu will mark this week as one of solidarity with Ukraine and its people, and is running a number of articles and news items related to the conflict and its impact on the rest of Europe and the world.
On Tuesday (21 February), a delegation of six Ukrainians, including two representatives from the National Interests Advocacy Network NGO “ANTS”, and four representatives from the cities of Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Mariupol, visited the LINKS Europe in The Hague.
The Ukrainian delegation included: Vasyl Sehin, the Executive Director of ANTS; Yuliya Vusenko, the regional coordinator of ANTS and the head of the investment commission in Volyn Oblast Council; Olexandr Senkevych, the Mayor of Mykolaiv; Serhii Koreniev, the Deputy Mayor of Mykolaiv; Halyna Luhova, the Mayor, Secretary and Head of the Military Administration of Kherson; and Sergiy Orlov, the Deputy Mayor of Mariupol.
The Ukrainian delegation were on a two-day visit to Rotterdam and The Hague to meet with Dutch civil society and city representatives to discuss potential future cooperation between the respective organisations and cities, with a particular focus on developing horizontal EU-Ukraine ties and harnessing knowledge for the reconstruction of Ukraine following the ongoing war’s conclusion.
LINKS Europe expressed solidarity with and support for the Ukrainian delegation and the country and people of Ukraine, and agreed to explore paths of cooperation in the future with ANTS and the city representatives of Kherson, Mykolaiv and Mariupol. The delegation thanked LINKS Europe, and the Netherlands and Dutch society for their ongoing support of Ukraine.
Following the meeting, LINKS Europe Research Associate and commonspace.eu Deputy Editor Patrick Norén took comments from Halyna Luhova, Sergiy Orlov, and Olexandr Senkevych about the situation in their respective cities of Kherson, Mykolaiv and Mariupol, and their plans for reconstruction with the support of international partners.
Halyna Luhova, Mayor, Secretary and Head of the Military Administration of Kherson
The city was liberated on 11 November 2022. It was the finest day in the history of our city. But the euphoria of liberation finished on 20 November because since that day Kherson city, the region, and our heroic people, have been shelled every day.
We have shelling 24 hours a day, we have shelling, mines, artillery, grenades, snipers from the left bank of the river, tanks hit and destroy our infrastructure, and the situation is very dangerous there.
On 24 February last year, the population was 333,000. But now we have a population of only 50,000 people. 46 school buildings, more than 20 medical buildings, and 154 private houses have been destroyed.
A lot of people have been killed, but nevertheless our invincible people began to fight and now we have 10 open supermarkets, we have open chemists, open hospitals, we have our Nova Poshta - the post office - and our pensioners are receiving their pensions. Also the Ukrposhta post office is working. So Kherson goes on to live and goes on to struggle. Also, 11 children were born during January and February in the city.
We hope that we will be heard by people all over the world, and people all over the world will help us. Also we have to think about the future of our heroic city. So our next step must be to rebuild and reconstruct. So we are here and we have some ideas of how to reconstruct the city because we have a big port that needs construction. We also had our large oil port, it is one of the largest oil ports in Ukraine, and it also needs rebuilding.
Sergiy Orlov, Deputy Mayor of Mariupol
The situation in Mariupol is awful because the city has a big territory - 273 square kilometres - but a lot of districts are abandoned and demolished. Between 22,000 and 60,000 people have been killed.
At the moment 150,000 of our citizens and residents do live in a temporarily occupied city, and there is no chance to reach them with humanitarian help, not only from our city council and the Ukrainian government, but also from international humanitarian organisations.
They live in sadness without any future, and most of them are looking for and waiting for the liberation of Mariupol.
We do a lot to help all internally displaced people from Mariupol across Ukraine, there are 150,000 of them. They receive humanitarian help in our centres, called IamMariupol. There are 17 centres across Ukraine, and between 2,000 and 2,500 visit every day. So we really need help and support to do all this kind of help.
There is a lot of humanitarian help, hygiene kits, legal consultation, doctors, lawyers, careers advice to give them the opportunity to find a job, it is a lot. That is why we are looking for help from international charity organisations with grants and donations to provide this help.
We have also started to think about the future of liberated Mariupol because it cannot be restored without an idea, a vision, and a mission. That is why we set up the platform Mariupol Reborn, and we ask for help for expertise, for knowledge, for ideas, with the concept to ‘build back better’.
Olexandr Senkevich, Mayor of Mykolaiv
First of all, the absence of occupation of Mykolaiv is a sign of bravery of Mykolaiv citizens and our army in defending the city.
In a short time they were able to regroup and realise the problems that [Ukraine had] in the Kherson direction and in the east of the country, and together with the army we created a good defence of the city. We hit the Russians and we pushed them back to the Kherson area where they were staying until 11 November.
Our city is 260 square kilometres. If you put a grid on this map you will see that every cell of this grid was under bombardment. They used different types of bombs, rockets, cruise missiles, even banned cluster bombs. But we stayed strong and we were awarded the title of Hero City - we call ourselves the City of Heroes.
Before the liberation of Kherson, only 46 days were silent. They destroyed a lot of stuff, buildings, multi-apartment buildings, private houses, and different infrastructure objects, schools, kindergartens, etc.
So we are now in the process of planning to rebuild and renovate the city of Mykolaiv. For us, I know it sounds awful, but we see that the war is a chance to become better, to build back better, and we are making progress with our new master plan. We have involved the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the Italian company OneWorks, and the Danish company CowiGroup. They are involved in the creation of the new master plan to rebuild Mykolaiv.
And now we are in search of partners who will help us to develop different zones inside the city, that is why we are here. We met with the Mayor of Rotterdam, a city which has an ambition to become the world’s best port. We also want to be one of the best ports of Ukraine and in the world. So we asked about cooperation in this.
We do not want to lose time. While the war happens, people and civilians who are not involved in the defence on the front line should work on the future and prepare all the bureaucracy and the procedures, to renovate and to prepare everything for our refugees to come back to our country… The most important thing is that [Ukrainian refugees] want to come back to Ukraine. We have to prepare everything for our citizens so they have comfortable places where they can live.