Fletcher Alumus Gautier Parthon de Von Worked as Parliamentary Assistant to Ukrainian MP Yelyzaveta Yasko

By Natasha Wood, MALD 2024 Candidate, The Fletcher School

“We Ukrainians are very connected to our land, in every possible way. For us, soil is our soul,” said Yelyzaveta Yasko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, or Verkhovna Rada. “Now the soil is being used against us, but also against all of you. He knows that you will suffer from all of that. He knows that Ukraine, as the breadbasket, is feeding all the world.”

MP Yasko delivered those remarks to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in January 2023. Looking on was Gautier Parthon de Von, a recent graduate of the Masters in Transatlantic Affairs (MATA) program at The Fletcher School and the College of Europe. Parthon de Von spent nine months working with Yasko as a part-time parliamentary assistant. He supported her work with the EU and NATO and wrote several of her speeches.

“The speeches [were] written on very specific aspects of the Russian invasion,” Parthon de Von pointed out. “For example, ecocide and how it negatively impacts a large portion of Ukraine’s agricultural land. Being very focused on how events were unfolding and seeing them happening in real time–that was very interesting to witness.”

Parthon de Von is a French and Belgian dual citizen. He completed his undergraduate studies between Science Po and the University of British Columbia. He focuses on transatlantic security and NATO and has worked previously at the German Marshall Fund in Paris, the UN Mission of the Holy See, and the Consulate of Belgium in Marseille, France.

Parthon de Von met Yasko while cross-registered at a Harvard Business School class on war and peace, where she was a guest lecturer. Yasko, who is 32 and part of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party, reflected during her talk on the challenges she has faced. “She started her lecture by saying, ‘doing this job in Ukraine as a woman, and as a young woman is especially hard now.’ I was moved by how difficult this job is for her, and how motivated she is,” Parthon de Von remarked.

In the Verkhovna Rada, Yasko serves as head of Interparliamentary Cooperation for Bilateral and Multilateral Relations, and she is a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Interparliamentary Cooperation. She is also a member of the Ukrainian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. “After the lecture, we started talking, and I realized she could use [someone who is] anglophone… to help her with topics [related to] the EU, the Council of Europe, NATO, and the media,” adds Parthon de Von.

He also pointed out that Yasko is representative of a new era of Ukrainian political leadership focused on the future of Ukraine. “She comes from a generation of people who know less about the USSR and have very different aspirations than the previous political class. [They] aspire to the EU and NATO for wealth and security and have turned their backs on the Russian sphere of influence.” In January 2014, Yasko took part in the Maidan Revolution and was filmed playing the piano on top of one of the barricades.

Yasko is also focused on the domestic consequences of the war, especially as it pertains to culture and education. She founded an NGO called “Yellow Blue Strategy” focused on developing cultural and public diplomacy in Ukraine. She has also worked on several documentary films focused on the region, including “Crimea: Russia’s Dark Secret” released in 2018 for Al Jazeera. There is a need to “invest in education and culture to adapt to having a classroom in this situation,” Parthon de Von recalled her saying.

Parthon de Von also worked with Yasko during the World Economic Forum in Davos and the Munich Security Conference. He developed stakeholder maps and managed her interactions with the press. He also saw first-hand the influence she had on government officials and members of the business community and the consequences of those interactions on Western support for Ukraine. “Her job was to raise awareness about what is happening… Every time she talks, she has a special voice, [and] people would really listen. [She was able to] bring strategic attention to what was going on and identify the precise needs that the country has.”

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