By Luke Johnson
"We respect your choice, we condemn the war, we want our children and grandchildren to live in friendship, and Ukraine and Russia to be at peace," the students say.
A group of Russian students has a message for Ukraine: “Forgive us.”
In a new video, young people identifying themselves as university students in Moscow and St. Petersburg apologize for their country's actions.
"We are ashamed that our country violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine that we must respect," one of the Russian students says in the video.
"We are ashamed at this undeclared, criminal war where thousands of our compatriots have perished," says another.
Several others, speaking individually, deliver a two-word message: "Forgive us.”
The video was posted on YouTube on February 12 by an opposition youth group called Vesna (Spring).
Their call was prompted by a video posted online in January by students from several universities in Kyiv asking their Russian counterparts to reject the Russian state-controlled media’s portrayal of Ukraine and its citizens:
That video sparked a response from a group of pro-Kremlin youth released on February 1 that described the ouster of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a staunch Kremlin ally, as an "unconstitutional coup" that created "bloody chaos":
Russian state television has consistently portrayed the Ukraine crisis as the result of an illegal coup by pro-Western politicians and fascists in Ukraine under the direction of the United States and the European Union (EU).
It has also celebrated the Kremlin’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea territory in March 2014, a takeover deemed illegal by a majority of UN members, and downplayed Russia’s involvement in the conflict.
Top U.S. and EU officials have repeatedly accused Russia of using its state-controlled media to distort the Ukraine crisis and disseminate “propaganda.”
'On the side of truth'
In the video released by Vesna, the Moscow and St. Petersburg students say they want to serve as a "bridge" to narrow what they call a growing "gap" between Russia and Ukraine.
"We are on the same side, because it is criminal not to be on the side of truth," says one of the students.
The Ukrainian students who posted their video appeal last month called on Russians to "check what you hear" and "doubt what you see."
"We stand on opposite sides of the barricades, and between us lie kilometers of misunderstanding," one Ukrainian students says.
The Russian students conclude the Vesna video with a message delivered half in unison and half individually.
"Do not respond to hate with hate. We respect your choice, we condemn the war, we want our children and grandchildren to live in friendship, and Ukraine and Russia to be at peace," they say. "Whoever this war was beneficial for, it will never be beneficial for the people of Ukraine and Russia, and we must do everything together to stop it."
Meanwhile, a group of Moldovan students adopted the same format in a February 12 video addressing both Ukrainians and Russians, expressing support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and calling for an end to hostilities.
“We want peace,” one Moldovan student says.