Ukrainian mayor says new Sheffield twinning symbolises hope for future despite terroristic attacks by Russia
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Oleksandr Symchyshyn, the mayor of Khmelnytskyi, in western Ukraine, gave a powerful presentation in a special meeting in Sheffield Town Hall yesterday before signing a memorandum of understanding with Sheffield Lord Mayor Sioned-Mair Richards.
The meeting officiated a new twinning between Khmelnytskyi and Sheffield which will support civic, cultural, educational and business opportunities.
Mr Symchyshyn said it signalled hope for the future despite the horrors his country is facing every day in the war started by Vladimir Putin.
He said “It’s very important to us to have this binding agreement with a city in England because at the moment the United Kingdom is one of the biggest supporters of Ukraine.
“The memorandum will signal to everyone in Khmelnytskyi and beyond that there is hope, there is future and despite the terroristic attacks – just recently nine rockets exploded in Khmelnytskyi – there is a way forward and we have support from all civilised countries.”
Mr Symchyshyn’s speech brought tears to the eyes of some sitting in the Town Hall council chamber as he spoke of the thousands of fresh graves and destroyed villages and cities he saw on trips to the front line and the deaths of the ‘best people’ in his country caused by Vladimir Putin’s war.
The Khmelnytskyi mayor gifted Sheffield a Ukrainian flag signed by fighters on the front line.
He said: “The situation in Ukraine is quite difficult, every day there are attacks targeting civilian infrastructure and the aim is to deprive Ukrainians of electricity, water and heating.
“Those terrorist attacks only make us more determined and demonstrate the value of democracy, civilised life and peaceful life.
“The memorandum signals that you agree with us, you believe in us, and you think the same as us that victory of Ukraine will mean the victory of democracy and a victory for civilised life and hope for everyone who shares these values.”
Following Mr Symchyshyn’s speech, council leader Terry Fox said: “We open our arms to the people of Ukraine, we open our arms to the residents of Khmelnytskyi.”
He added: “On a number of trips around many of Europe’s battlefields I’ve seen the scars of yesteryear but to live through it as you are today we can only begin to feel the pain you must be feeling at this moment in time.”
In a report prepared for the meeting Nik Hamilton, investment team manager at the council, said Sheffield has historically fostered international relationships through a number of twin city arrangements and friendship agreements in Europe, USA, Nicaragua, China, Japan, Pakistan and Zambia as well as through the EuroCities network.
One of its twin cities is Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, a relationship that began in the 1950s.
Mr Hamilton said: “In establishing a new twinning relationship with Khmelnytskyi, we need to be respectful of the prior twinning relationship with Donetsk and when the conflict is over the intention would be to seek to renew relations when deemed appropriate.”