Vera Kichanova, an alumna of Students For Liberty originally from Russia, shares her thoughts on Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine:
10 years ago, I was elected to the municipal council in Moscow, becoming the first ever elected libertarian politician in Russia. Two years later, Putin annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine (yes, the Russo-Ukrainian War started eight years ago, not in February 2022). That’s when I realized I didn’t want anything to do with that regime anymore — and moved from Moscow to Kyiv.
As a councilor, I campaigned for more transparency, controlled public spending in my constituency, and supported grassroots activities. But, most importantly, we tried our best to challenge Putin’s monopoly on power.
We helped organize rallies with up to 150,000 participants, demanding fair elections and freedom of speech. We opposed the militarization of Russian society. I worked with the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee, exposing human rights violations within the Russian army.
None of these activities are safe in Putin’s Russia — and I’ve been arrested six times for my activism.
In 2014, we protested against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During the Euromaidan Revolution, I spent a dramatic weekend in Kyiv during which it became clear to me that Ukraine is a place where post-Soviet history is being made.
Being half Ukrainian myself, I’ve always felt a strong connection to this country. I spent a lot of time there when I was a child. My grandparents live in Pavlograd, a small mining town in eastern Ukraine where they are now getting used to air raid sirens as Putin’s soldiers attempt to capture the nearby city of Dnipro.
I spent two years in Kyiv working with Atlas Network and Students For Liberty, running educational programmes, advocating for economic reforms, traveling throughout the country, and talking to young Ukrainians from Lviv to Kharkiv. Those were people of my age — the first free generation to grow up in the remnants of the Soviet empire. Putin’s invasion has been viewed as an attempt to restore the Soviet Union — something Ukrainians have walked away from by embracing liberal values.
We organized Liberty Classes — a series of campus lectures discussing the ideas of freedom and their implementation in the Ukrainian post-revolutionary environment. The project reached over 1,000 students and won the Event of the Year prize — an award that acknowledged not just our team but the enthusiastic Ukrainian youth who realize it takes more than a revolution to make the country free. “Students in this country are underappreciated resources for the future,” Tom Palmer told me in an interview while in Kyiv.
Kyiv has become my second home. I’m still trying to cope with the fact that the Kyiv I love so much — with breathtakingly beautiful architecture, street fairs, flea markets, and dance festivals under the bridge — is the same city that is now being bombed by Russian invaders.
What is not surprising to me, though, is the bravery which Ukrainians show as they react to the invasion. Ukrainians are now doing the job that we started over ten years ago — trying to put an end to probably the ugliest regime Europe has seen since 1945. They are fighting for our future, not just their own. And they deserve all our support. And they will win.
Liberty will prevail. Слава Україні!
To read more of our alumni’s statements on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, be sure to click on the button below.
This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, send your piece to [email protected], and mention SFL Blog in the email subject line for your chance to be published and be seen!