The Roadshow was held as a charitable event, so visitors had the opportunity not only to follow the discussion among five experts but also to make a contribution to the Memory of Nations NGO for its financial collection to help Ukraine. In the end, over CZK 120,000 was raised through ticket sales.
Right before the Roadshow started, the Rector of Masaryk University Martin Bareš came on the podium to address the audience. “Exactly one month ago, the Russian army launched its invasion of Ukraine. Masaryk University has taken a stand against this war in the spirit of its history and tradition. We are helping hard-pressed Ukraine not only symbolically but also in terms of concrete practical steps,” said Mr Bareš. He also shared a fresh personal experience. “On Monday this week, the rector of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv joined a meeting of the board of the Czech Rectors Conference, and he and his colleagues asked us for assistance with online tuition for students in the cities where they have taken refuge. What we’re witnessing these days is hard to believe and I am really very proud that our university and our country have risen up to the occasion.”
The Roadshow’s first quest was Ukraine’s Ambassador to the Czech Republic, H.E. Mr Yevhen Perebyinis, who appeared via video link. “It defies belief that a country has chosen to attack another country with planes, missiles and bombs in the 21st century. Nobody wants to live in a totalitarian regime like Russia and Putin understands this, so he is punishing Ukrainians for knowing how to be free. Putin wants to occupy the whole of Ukraine and return it to Russia’s sphere of influence, but even if he succeeded in seizing Ukraine, he wouldn’t be able to hold it. Sooner or later he will have to agree to negotiate. We would like it to happen sooner rather than later because we care for human lives and must do everything possible to prevent further death and destruction,” said Mr Perebyinis.
Michael Žantovský, former ambassador to Britain, Israel and the United States, then discussed the issue of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. “The assistance rendered to Ukraine by NATO, the European Union and the whole Western world is significant at the moment and there is now a kind of unity that we have not seen for many years. It is perfectly understandable that a country facing such a brutal assault calls for a no-fly zone to close the sky, but NATO cannot provide this assistance to Ukraine. There is a balance of risks and costs and if you look at it rationally, it doesn’t make sense. Closing the airspace over Ukraine would mean a direct clash with the Russian air force and thus an armed conflict between NATO and Russia. Moreover, it would also pose a huge problem for Ukrainian air defences,” Žantovský explained.
The guests of the Roadshow also discussed the effect of economic sanctions levelled against Russia. “These sanctions aim to bleed the Russian military dry and to deny Russia the economic resources it needs to prosecute the war. I firmly believe this will succeed, but it very much depends on our resolve. What we need to do now is to maintain all the sanctions in place. The sanctions are not just cutting off money flows – they also hinder technology transfers,” emphasised Jana Matesová, former Czech representative to the World Bank.
Josef Kraus, political scientist and security analyst from the MU Faculty of Social Studies, also added his perspective on Russia’s war of aggression. “The Russian invasion has been marred by a number of huge problems hampering the Russian army’s progress. Russian battlefield tactics as well as its overall strategy have failed to produce the desired results. In combination with the absolutely dysfunctional logistics, this has meant that the Russian advance ground to a halt in just a couple of weeks. The soldiers on the frontlines are running out of food and have been reduced to looting shops, they lack fuel for their vehicles and much of their supplies have been stored in inadequate conditions. Unfortunately, Russia will try to compensate for these deficiencies by employing ever more brutal force,” said Josef Kraus.
The final guest of the Roadshow was the Respekt magazine’s reporter Ivana Svobodová, who described to the audience what she witnessed while travelling with refugee families on the train from Kyiv to Lviv. “The refugees want the world to know what they are going through and they want us to see what the war is really like. Ukrainians are very well informed about how Russian propaganda works, but are not sure how far it reaches and what Europe really knows about them and the war,” Svobodová explained.
At the end of the debate, Daniela Drtinová and Michael Rozsypal expressed gratitude to Masaryk University for its help in organising the Roadshow and thanked the audience in the Scala University Cinema for buying tickets and donating to the Memory of Nations’ Ukraine aid collection. “Brno hardly ever disappoints and you certainly did not disappoint today.”
You can still help Ukrainian students and academics by donating money through Masaryk University to support educational and humanitarian efforts. You can make a donation through the MUNI Shopping Centre. You can find out how much money has been collected so far on the MUNI HELPS website.