The well-known human rights defender agreed to answer the question about human rights violations by the Russian occupiers, and also mentioned the important presentation in Italy a book about Russia's war against Ukraine with speeches by Volodymyr Zelenskyi.

Interesting What will the new Italian government bring to the country and Ukraine?

Interview with Eleonora Mongelli: video

About Kremlin pseudo-referendums and human rights

I would like to start with the so-called referendum that Russia held on the occupied Ukrainian territories. With armed men, accompanied by portable ballot boxes, as we have seen on numerous videos. How does this all look in terms of human rights?

For Russia, this is another way to legitimize the annexation of the Ukrainian territories captured by them. And this violent change of generally recognized international borders is a clear violation of international law. And even the very fact of planning such a referendum by representatives of illegal formations that seized power in the occupied Ukrainian territories is also a violation of international law and any international standards.

The OSCE has repeatedly emphasized that any referendums or expressions of will that may be held in Ukraine must take place exclusively under the control of the legitimate Ukrainian authorities and exclusively in accordance with national legislation, as well as international standards. Let me remind you that all those years ago, Russia held the same referendum in Crimea. And in some European countries there were those who openly said that people in Crimea decided to use the referendum and "show their will there".

This clearly shows how Russia, under the guise of legality, uses referendums as propaganda tools. A clear understanding should come to all Europeans - the very fact that they are talking about these referendums as an established fact is, in fact, the spread of the same Russian propaganda. A big problem is also the European mass media, when they do not use the correct terminology, because these are not referendums, these are illegal procedures, without observers, this is just a show.

There are many cases, when Russia separates families in Ukraine. For example, the occupiers take Ukrainian children somewhere to Russia, thereby breaking up families. What do you think about the illegal removal of children and Ukrainians from the territory of Ukraine to Russia?

In international humanitarian law, the forced deportation of people during war is clearly defined as a war crime. If it is about children, then it is classified as genocide. According to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, genocide is an attempt to destroy a people or an ethnic group.

The fact that Russia takes children from the occupied territories is an undeniable manifestation of genocide – an attempt to destroy the national identity of Ukrainians. We can see manifestations of genocide in other cases, such as the forced Russification of kidnapped children, or the forced adoption of Ukrainian children by Russians.

Again, this includes the Russification of schools in the occupied territories, the replacement of the Ukrainian language with Russian - all these facts indisputably testify to Russia's genocide against Ukraine.

Are there similar features of human rights violations when we compare the Russian-Ukrainian war with other wars where Russia directly participated? Is there anything similar?

Of course. If we recall Syria, it happened there too. The same methods were used, certain types of weapons were illegally used, people's homes and humanitarian institutions, schools and hospitals were destroyed. The Russians destroyed everything to terrorize the population. That is, this is a standard tactic of the Russians, which we are talking about when it comes to an attack by Russia on a country.

We all saw what happened in Bucha, Borodyanka, Gostomel, and the recently in Izyum. Terrible things that Russian soldiers did to our people. And we call it genocide. Are such actions of the Russians a sign of genocide?

The destruction of civilians clearly falls under the classification of crimes against humanity. and they can also be classified as genocide. As I mentioned earlier, the concept of genocide implies the intention to destroy an ethnic, religious or national group. That is why it is extremely difficult to prove the fact of genocide in court. At the same time, we see clear signs of genocide in the crimes that Russia commits in Ukraine against the local population – kidnapping children and taking them to Russian territory, changing school programs, forced Russification. So yes, these are elements of genocide – they are difficult to prove, but we will work on it, just like we do on war crimes.

Bodies are exhumed in retaken Izyum in northeastern Ukraine / AFP

Are there any violations that are difficult to prove? How to prove such violations in general, what was the practice and have you encountered such cases?

When we are faced with crimes that are difficult to investigate and prove, for example, a crime such as rape, a so-called hidden crime during a conflict or war, this crime can be used as one of the weapons. In general, crimes against humanity, such as rape, are very difficult to investigate, primarily because its main goal is to humiliate a person, destroy a community, suppress the spirit of resistance and, in general, spread distrust among people. And that is why the victims of these crimes very often do not want to talk about them, let alone report them, but it is necessary to investigate such crimes.

Currently, mobilization is actively underway in Russia. The media say that in total more than 1.2 million people will be mobilized, these are big numbers. The leadership does not provide new soldiers with equipment, but instead provides lists of what they need to buy on their own. Of course, all these soldiers will come to Ukraine and die here. But let's look at this situation from the point of view of human rights, how do you rate it? And in general, all that is happening there?

Of course, Russia grossly violates human rights, especially if we are talking about the invasion of Ukraine and Russian war crimes. But the regime also violates the rights of its people on its territory. So yes, of course.

A few words about your book. Why did you decide to present the book "We will fight to the end" on behalf of the Federation for Human Rights in Italy?

The curator of this book is journalist Massimiliano Mellieu, an Italian who worked with a focus on Ukraine. And this book includes a selection of President Zelenskyi's speeches starting from April 23, I'm sorry, from February 23 until April.

Publishing this book and presenting it to Italian readers in a country where Kremlin propaganda is extremely powerful is an opportunity for us to talk about Ukraine without a Russian filter. And it is also an opportunity to hear the voice of Ukraine, the voice of the victims, because the main topic for discussion should be the Russian aggression and its victims in Ukraine. In this aspect, this book is extremely valuable in order to understand what horror ordinary Ukrainians are going through now.

What kind of motivation was to write this book?

Massimiliano Mellie collected all of Zelensky's speeches so that the voice of the representative of all Ukrainians was heard. After all, this is a leader who decided to stay with his people, and was with them even when his life was in great danger. That is, from a certain point of view, this is support for the Ukrainian people.

Who, in your opinion, is Volodymyr Zelenskyi for the readers?

Readers have very different opinions about President Zelensky, as about Ukraine and the war. And we wanted to point out that the crimes against Ukraine and Russia's attack on it, all these war crimes that took place - there cannot be different opinions here. We have to be extremely specific here - and we have to make it clear to people that crimes must be condemned. Even those who personally do not like President Zelensky.

What has President Zelenskyi's policy changed in Europe and in Italy as a whole?

First of all, Zelensky conveyed to all of us the fact that we must fight for our democracies. We must fight for our freedom. And if we conclude some profitable economic agreements with the regimes and depend on them, especially in matters of energy carriers, then we may become victims of blackmail.

And the price we pay for this is our independence and our democracy. And I believe that President Zelensky taught us these lessons and was able to consolidate the cooperation of Western countries when it comes to the fight for our values, for example, for all Western countries to join the sanctions and condemn the actions of Russia.

And what is your attitude towards Zelenskyi as a politician and leader of the people of Ukraine?

He is the president of the country and people who are currently suffering from war crimes. He leads a country that is fighting for its right to exist. And which needs the support of the international community.

Therefore, I believe that Zelenskyi is the voice of all victims of this war, of all Ukrainians. and the international community should thank him for what he is doing. And again, we must all unite for the sake of supporting and preserving European values, our democracy, our freedom and our security against the regimes.

What would you say to the people of Ukraine, who are fighting for their independence every day?

The international community is with you, you are our heroes, you must remain one people, one nation, and you really represent European values, and we are very proud of you.

Thank you for your time in our interview, I hope that everyone who watched us got all the answers to their questions.