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Atlantic Council Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award

The Atlantic Council presented its 2014 Distinguished Leadership Awards in Washington D.C. April 30 before an audience of more than 900 US and international foreign policy and business leaders. The annual awards celebrate people and institutions that make extraordinary contributions to building transatlantic relations.

Ruslana received the prestigious award for her tireless commitment as a passionate advocate for a free, independent and democratic Ukraine.

Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma introduced Ruslana in an emotional laudation: “When Ruslana sang the Ukraine national anthem on Maidan on freezing winter nights she inspired her nation to peaceful resistance. Her voice was stronger than sniper bullets. … I am reminded of my country’s singing revolution 25 years ago. We start sing the songs that gave us comfort and strength in those days to regain freedom. So, I am sure Ruslana’s leadership will have lasting influence on her nation.”

Ruslana appealed for international support for Ukraine’s battle to keep its independence, despite Russia’s seizure of Crimea and the Russian-backed violence in eastern Ukraine.

“Don’t wait for a new tragedy to happen. One tragedy already happened– on the Maidan, another happened to the Crimea, a third one is happen at– in East Ukraine. Help us stop Putin’s aggression, stop his megalomania. You are acting as if Putin is on Mars, but not earth. The problem is not the sanction, not the weapons, the problem is the courage. America be strong. America doesn’t want a war so then show that you are able to stop the war. Please do everything to safe human lives before it’s too late”, she urged.

And addressing the Russia’s leader directly: “President Putin, if you want to destroy Ukraine you must understand it’s impossible. The spirit of Ukrainians is undefeated. You should know when people fight for their country they lose fear. I have no way back. I started to struggle on the Maidan and I will fight to the end. I’m not afraid of anything.”

At the end of her speech Ruslana asked the audience to pick up the hundreds of flashlights distributed around the tables in the ballroom.

“This flashlight is more powerful than tanks and propaganda. Switch on your flashlights, lights of freedom. Show the Maidan for peace here and now. I am proud of my country. I am proud to present the symbol of light and people power. Glory to Ukraine. We woke up the world.”

The room’s lights were dimmed, and the gathering switched on the flashlights, as crowds at the Maidan did over the winter to show their support for a free and democratic Ukraine. The melody of Ukraine’s national anthem swelled, and as Ruslana sang it, the hundreds of US and European foreign policy and business leaders rose from their seats, their flashlights raised.

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