Kyiv, July 2, 2015. The exhibition, Mariupol: The First Line of Defense opened on July 2 at Ukraine Crisis Media Center’s International Media & Art Lounge. It exhibits events of the past year in Mariupol as pro-Russian fighters attempted to capture the town and make it a part of the “DPR”.
“The exhibition contains a story dedicated to the liberation of Mariupol, showing the beauty of Ukrainian’s patriotic movement. It also demonstrates the results of the tragic shelling of the eastern district of the city and exhibits children’s drawings, in which children drew [images of] peace in Mariupol and in the country,” said activist and exhibition organizer Valentyna Okhlopkova during a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
During the briefing, the chairperson of All-Ukrainian Union of Peacekeeping Operations Members, Serhiy Hrabskyi explained how unarmed local residents said ‘no’ to terror and war. As a result, residents thwarted pro-Russian militants’ initial attempts to capture the city. Complications arose when very few Ukrainian troops remained on the ground in Mariupol, and local authorities decided to surrender. However, Mariupol residents chose to defend the city.
Hrabskyi continued, “It is the essence of the ‘Ukrainian spirit’ phenomenon. The local community and its activists worked a miracle. They defeated a raging, armed enemy, stopped him and made authorities do something, marshalling local resources. The enemy was trying to intimidate people and suppress their resistance. People were shot mercilessly because of the brutal aggression that took place at the end of January 2015. People incurred losses and could have surrendered but they withstood and won. These were not the authorities that won, but the community and the conscience of its citizens. People chose to become a free community ready to assume responsibility. They started building defensive installations, providing help. People united and at present we observe a phenomenon of a Ukrainian fortress at Azov.”
Hrabskyi concluded, “Despite the resistance from the elderly, elite, and authorities, Mariupol vividly exemplifies Ukraine’s ability to marshal resources, unite and choose the right path—the way of the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian society. Mariupol is a capital of the Azov region of Ukraine and it gives hope that Ukraine will win, withstand and become a thriving country.”