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We must stop supplying intellectual weapons to separatists

The petition to the President of Ukraine on media landscape de-occupation is obtaining a wider range of supporters in Ukrainian thinking society. Ukrainian artists, who are outraged by the dominance of Russian "cultural" product, insist on the ban of occupants media-product.

Today we have asked Ivan Lenyo, frontman of Kozak System band and author of the petition, to comment on the initiative and events around it.

- Hello, Ivan. How did the idea to create the petition about the deoccupation of the Ukrainian media environment appeared?

- Hello! I think, the idea has been relevant for more than 25 years of independence of our country.

To be more precise, we (Kozak System) and our friends, such as the Kapranov brothers, Antin Muharskyi, Oksana Stebelska, Volodymyr Sherstyuk, Taras Kompanichenko, Oleh Skrypka, the Telnyuk Sisters, Sasha Lirnyk decided to organize a press conference in UNIAN and show our patriotic stance as artists of Ukraine.

I realize that we could find support by much more patriots of Ukraine, who work and are well-known in the field of intellectual activity, but it was enough to create a precedent. Now all other concerned artists of Ukraine support us and show their stance.

- Ivan, what is an essence of the appeal?

- The essence of our appeal is very simple. We see how our soldiers protect the borders of our country at the expense of their lives, injuries, and incredible efforts. Moreover, 20 percent of those soldiers are professional, but 80 percent are simple people who have weapons in hand and stopped the enemy on the physical borders of our country. The enemy took away Crimea; the enemy captured the two regions of Ukraine. There is war, and it continues.

But the most important war that is going on is our minds war. This war goes on, and no obstacles currently exist. I mean intellectual landscape. We see all Russian domination; we see the dominance that either directly or covertly promotes Russkiy Mir (Russian World). We see on every TV channel and every radio station huge volumes of product made in the country of the invader. We, as artists, can no longer keep silent.

We will never win this war if we do not fight on all fronts! An intellectual front and intellectual weapons shoot much deeper, much stronger and more powerful because it affects a mental side.

The cause of the war in Donbas, the reason for the intervention of Russian horde in our territory was like a time bomb since the time of Stalin. To be precise, now tercentenary Ukrainian struggle for independence is on the Scales of History. Holodomor (Famine), Ukrainian leading best people were killed in camps, in exile, in prison. Intellectuals and culture were exterminated, 44 bans of the language.

All insurgent liberation movements in Ukraine at all times are anyway fighting invaders. In Donbas this struggle became apparent and we, Ukrainians, feel the real Russian aggression.

And I do not understand why those who have to protect our intellectual space do not react so far? Why was this petition addressed to the President of Ukraine as the guarantor of our security needed?

It contains a very simple phrase: 'de-occupation of the Ukrainian media landscape of goods produced in the Russian Federation.' That is on the territory of the invader.

- As far as I understand you need to collect the greatest possible number of votes? How can I vote?

Unfortunately, the web page of the President was created so that one cannot vote in one click. There is a complicated registration procedure and then log in to the web page and then vote. So today there are two issues: firstly, access and explanation how to vote, and secondly, to make our initiative available and understandable to the highest number of people. We think that there is such a request in society. I talk with many friends, and they are Ukraine's leading artists and all the time I hear complaints that TV or radio is full of information product that somehow promotes Russkiy Mir. These products continue to promote and to spread in our Ukrainian space someone else's, not ours product, that, in principle, criminal for us.

Russia is recognized as an aggressor not only to Ukraine, but also in relation to many neighboring countries. Russia is officially recognized as an aggressor in the world. The whole world stood up for Ukraine, sanctions were imposed not only by the EU but also America. You know well that they are effective. We believe that along with the sanctions that are imposed on goods from Russia, sanctions on the most important commodity - an intellectual product – should be imposed.

- But do we have a substitute today?

- To some extent, I think the question is even unethical!

I will say this: you cannot even imagine how many products (if you can call it so) produced by Ukrainian artists are now on shelves of these artists!

This is the absolute information! I see no reason to motivate the refusal of the petition or prohibition of promotion that we cannot replace these goods by Ukrainian ones. It is not a moral issue because we are not talking about a Polish intellectual product or a Czech one, a country which is not aggressive to us, not an aggressor. We are talking now not about replacing Russian! We are talking about a ban on aggressor’s products.

There is a war, I want to emphasize this, even if someone still thinks that there is an anti-terrorist operation. Perhaps someone thinks that it has ended? So I remind you that this war goes on! And every day our guys die. Die! They protect our physical borders at the cost of their lives. I believe that we, as not indifferent artists (not only artists, but also culture people) have to understand that this war continues in the information landscape. We have to stop it. This is the first thing we have to do.

I know that there will be gaps, which, believe me, will be quickly replaced. Let’s recall France, which banned a demonstration of American movies as an aggressive product, i.e. a product that comes from the country-aggressor. Today, you see, we have a flourishing French cinema; this is a leading part of the world cinema. There are many such examples in the history.

We have to understand that war is uncomfortable. The war apparently brings inconvenience to our lives. If this inconvenience affects only a small number of our glorious soldiers, and the rest of the Ukraine’s population drives expensive cars and feels calmly and the war does not touch them, I think it's unfair. Because we have to share this discomfort. War should worry and hurt not only volunteers, not just parents of soldiers who are fighting there now, but everyone, wherever he is either in the Carpathians or Transcarpathia or in Zhytomyr region or Eastern Ukraine.

I repeat, on the scales, on the one hand, is the eternal struggle of Ukrainian people for independence against Russia or against what Russia has declared. I mean the Bolsheviks, who were part of Russia and the Tsarist Russia, which was always an aggressor for Ukraine. On the other hand, the one who tells me that it will be difficult to find his favorite Russian artist somewhere on the Internet. Believe me, these inconveniences are relatively small in comparison to those inconveniences that our warrior suffers standing knee-deep in water in minus twenty degrees. We all have the same time to experience all the inconveniences.

Dear representatives of the Russian show business who showed the patriotic attitude towards Ukraine, who supported us in our struggle, you have to understand us! We defend! We are unable to find out every one of you, who refers approvingly, who supports us, who does not support, and who may be lying. You know, we talk about public policy, we speak of several state-owned TV channels and radio stations, and so on which mainly do not show you. Do you think that the central television shows Russian classical music concerts? Can you listen to classical music on the Ukrainian radio? – No! And if your favorite artist will not appear on Ukrainian television once a year – find him on YouTube!

We are not talking about Internet or censorship. I emphasize, we are not talking about censorship! It's about taste, about depth, level. So! We cannot operate with the barbarians, we act like civilized Europe as the civilized world. There is an officially recognized aggressor. Its information policy, intellectual policy and media policy towards us is aggressive. We have to ban impacting such aggression on our people, at least during the war.

- I agree with you, Ivan. It is time for our own Ukrainian meanings in all spheres of life. First of all, in culture. Are our artists ready for this in the broadest sense?

- A huge number of Ukrainians are now working abroad. In particular, its intellectual elite.

It is clear that Russian product occupies all our space, so what these people can do in the country? They go abroad. They go because of hopelessness, inability to be heard in their own country.

You understand that Ukrainian culture is, in fact, is reduced to small reservations? Owners of media of channels are either like or are financed by Russia, or even they like ‘Russkyi Mir’. It's not a matter of competition. Understand and believe me, "Kozak System" gave more than a thousand concerts in 17 countries for more than seventeen years. We have been in some countries five, six, ten times, also in Europe. We are successful there, because there is a completely open market, and there is normal competition. As you can see, we can compete.

Many Ukrainian bands are still not able to go abroad. We would like to see that not only "Kozak System", but many others have an opportunity in Ukraine, at home, to receive an airtime.

There is an official policy of Kremlin. And the policy, as you see, is being broadcasted to us through every information source. And we cannot say there are no substitutes.

I know exactly what there is enough of Ukrainian product. I know for sure that he will sooner or later become competitive. But if the Ukrainian was exterminated for three hundred years, why do you want to see competitive Ukrainian products in a week? This does not happen!

Obviously, we have to work. Obviously, it would be difficult. This can be compared with a narcotic addiction; we want to cure a person, not taking away from him this catheter that delivers drugs. Do you understand? First, we need to replace narcotics with vitamins to cure the patient. Unfortunately, it does not happen differently. To cure the terminally ill, we should at least initially stop supplying drugs.

And if we ban supply of weapons from Russia to separatists, we have to stop supply of intellectual weapons to separatists. It will not be possible to cultivate wheat in the field, which is overgrown with weeds.

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