The participants of the debate, that was moderated by Matvei Ganopolsky from the Radio Vesti in Ukraine discussed the current situation of the media in Ukraine. The discussion frequently returned to the person of Vladimir Putin and his influence on Ukraine’s nascent civil society. PDU’s CEO Benjamin Zeeb made clear, that Putin’s war in Ukraine is also directed at the EU and the social model it stands for.
At the 8th Europe- Ukraine Forum might as well have been called, 8th Putin Forum. Almost every discussion sooner or later returned to question of how to deal with the man currently occupying the Kremlin, and more problematically Crimea and the Donbass. There were some disagreements regarding how Europe should react to the Russian aggression, most spectacularly in an exchange between Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of Poland’s largest newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza who loudly called for the supply of weapons to the Ukrainians and German parliamentarian Norbert Spinrath, who feared such a move would only escalate the conflict. But most attendants of the conference shared the basic understanding, maybe articulated most clearly by Rebecca Harms, that Putin was in the process of turning the Donbass into a “launchpad for distortion” and that the Europeans would have to do more to stop his ambitions.
Like most conversations at the forum, the panel Zeeb spoke on, originally entitled “Media and Think-Tanks. The Evolution of the Public Communication System“, quickly returned to the question Mr Putin’s interference. In the current war on Europe’s eastern border, Russia’s aggression is not merely directed at NATO, it is directed the EU, and the model of civil society and rule of law that it represents. Timothy Synder, one of the most respected experts on the Ukraine issue sees the conflict as a contest between those who wish to oppress civil society and those who wish to embody it. As such it remains a central element of a larger historic struggle. In the context of this fight, a repeat of Poland’s success story in Ukraine or any other of its former satellites presents the Russian government with problems that can only be called existential. Given this threat, Russia is already waging an information war against the West, Zeeb argued. In the context of this conflict one of the main goals of the Russian strategy is to undermine trust in European media.