Ukraine at the Charlemagne Prize

The situation in Ukraine was among the most debated topics during the Charlemagne Prize ceremony. The winner Herman van Rompoy was greeted by the Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his appearance in Aachen led to a protest in front of the City Hall where the ceremony took place.

The protest was divided into two groups and despite the fact that both sides consisted of Russians, Germans and Ukrainians, their opinions about the situation in Ukraine were in strong contrast. Both sides claimed that they were protesting against the war, but their ideas of “who is wrong” and “who is right” weren’t the same. Some of the national winners of the Youth Charlemagne Prize pointed out that this is due to the “information war” between the two countries.

“We don’t want war and Russian propaganda in our home country. The people on the other side of the  protest read only Russian newspapers and watch only Russian TV,” said an Ukrainian woman on the pro-Ukraine side of the protest, while the people around her where shouting “Putin – terrorist!” Minutes later they started singing the Ukrainian national anthem.

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Most of the people on the other side of the protest came from the same background: emigrants from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus that have arrived in West Europe many years ago, searching for a better life.

“We admire Putin,” said two Russian women who have been living in Germany for 23 years. “We want to ask the politicians who are here today why haven’t they invited him to give a speech.”

Asked about how do they learn about what is going on in Ukraine, they explained that they are watching Ukrainian and Russian TV, but they are disappointed that often the different TV channels use exactly the same pictures to tell their stories.

Interestingly, Ukraine was present in at least one of the projects that were presented in the European Charlemagne Youth Prize. The UK’s national winner is a competition organized by Bite the Ballot – a project trying to increase young people’s motivation to vote. The participants in “Inspired impressions” have to answer a single question with a photo. That might sound easy, but the question is challenging: “What does it mean to be an European in 2014?” The competition was open to all citizens of member states, but the organizers are especially impressed by an entry from Ukraine. Katherina Ozeranets adds to her picture of the Maidan: “It means to build your future with your own hands. And don't forget your heroes."

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The UK winner - Michael Sani

Edited by: Celeste Concari

Photo Credits: Dessy Stoyanova