Russia is at war with Ukraine

I’m cutting short the lighthearted myth-busting series, in light of recent developments.

Putin has finally crossed yet another red line in his steady spiral of escalation in Ukraine. Regular Russian forces are now fighting the Ukrainian army.

To all my international readers:

It’s time we stopped giving Putin the benefit of the doubt and playing into his crude attempts at presenting this as a civil conflict in Ukraine. It’s time to start calling a spade a spade. The truth is simple:

Putin’s Russia is at war with Ukraine

This isn’t news. Putin has been at war with Ukraine ever since the Russian army invaded and annexed Crimea in a sham referendum, against all international laws and against every agreement signed by the Russian Federation. After that, Putin tried to foment natural unrest in the Eastern parts of Ukraine. When that failed, Putin’s proxies in Donbas created so-called “people’s republics” and started to kidnap and torture Ukrainian citizens. Whenever Ukraine gained the upper hand against these “rebels,” Putin aided them with weapons and mercenaries streaming across the border. Russian artillery has been shelling Ukraine’s territory for months. Ukraine did not retaliate, for fear of giving Russia an excuse to escalate.

Now, when Ukraine has recaptured much of the area previously under rebel control, Putin is escalating yet again. He’s now sending regular Russian soldiers to fight in Ukraine. The soldiers are told they are going on a training exercise. Putin is lying not only to the world, but to his own citizens.

I ask all those who aren’t indifferent to help end this. This is an act of unjustified, unilateral aggression that can potentially threaten the established world order. If you have the right political connections, help put pressure on your respective governments to take a firmer stance against Putin’s aggression. If you can’t do that, please share my words with those who might be able to.

To all my Russian readers:

Dear Russian brothers. Please understand one very important thing. Ukraine is not against you. It has never been against you. That claim is a cynical, despicable lie that has been perpetrated by Russian propaganda for almost an entire year. Maidan was not against you. Maidan was against a corrupt President who betrayed his promise to the Ukrainian people. Maidan was against a system that, for 23 years, kept Ukrainians from living in a modern, democratic country and from shaking off their Soviet past. People on Maidan came from all walks of life and from every ethnicity: Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians. Maidan had nothing to do with people’s nationality and their preferred language. I think this banner (written in Russian) from Maidan says it all:

Translation:

Translation: “Together against Putin. (We) love Russians. (We) despise Putin.”

Ukraine’s government is not a maniacal Nazi junta that wants to murder all Russian speakers. That story is an absurd, fantastic lie. To confirm that, you only need to see how the rest of Russian-speaking Ukraine—aside from Donbas—has been living for the past year. Hint: They live in peace. From Zaporizhia to Dnipropetrovsk to Mykolayiv. Peace. My exclusively Russian-speaking family and all of my Russian-speaking friends in Kharkov live in peace. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I have spent 10 wonderful sunny days in Kharkov less than a month ago with my little niece and the rest of my family. They do not need to be “rescued” from any mythical Ukrainian fascists! My biggest fear is that Putin’s “defenders” may appear there one day.

Ukraine is fighting a war of independence from Kremlin. It is fighting to keep its sovereignty. It doesn’t want to remain a satellite to Putin’s Russia. Putin is doing everything in his power to prevent this, up to sending your Russian soldiers to fight for his cause. His imperialist ambitions are driving a horrible wedge between our people. Let’s stand together to prevent him from succeeding. We’ll need to live with each other and look each other in the eye after this!

If you don’t do it for Ukraine, do it for the Russian mothers and wives whose sons and husbands are sent to fight Putin’s war in Ukraine. Not openly, in secret. They return home in coffins and their deaths are hushed up. They die for Putin’s objectives, yet they don’t even get the acknowledgment they deserve for serving their country. Don’t let Putin do this to Russia. Don’t let him do this to you. Your country deserves so much better!

To all Putin apologists:

At this stage, there exists far too much evidence of what Putin is up to. It’s hard to deny the obvious. Anyone who supports Putin is either spectacularly uninformed and mislead, or worse—knows exactly what Putin is doing and thinks it’s justified. To the latter: The blood of all Ukrainians, Russians, and others who died in this conflict (and those who will die in the future) is also on your hands. You’re enabling an aggressive leader who places no value on human lives and is willing to sacrifice everyone’s well-being for the sake of his plans. If you understand that fact and are OK with it—you’re guilty, too!

To those who still believe that Putin is fighting the good fight. To those who shed crocodile tears over civilians killed in Donbas and spread catchy tags on Twitter (like #SaveDonbasChildren) here’s all you need to know about that:

There was no war in Donbas until “defenders of Russian-speakers” showed up there.

Read that again. If you don’t want to go back and reread it, here it is once more:

THERE WAS NO WAR IN DONBAS UNTIL “DEFENDERS OF RUSSIAN-SPEAKERS” SHOWED UP THERE!

Putin, aided by his relentless propaganda machine, brought war and death to my country. Putin’s “freedom fighters” have placed Ukraine’s government before an awful choice: Do nothing, and let the rebels continue methodically torturing and killing Ukrainian citizens in Donbas, stealing their cars and apartments, and destroying the region’s infrastructure, or interfere militarily, at the risk of potential civilian deaths but in the hope that order and peace can eventually be restored. Ukraine chose the latter. What country wouldn’t? Name one government that would simply let a group of what are essentially foreign mercenaries and local criminals freely murder its citizens?! If you’re still doubtful of Kiev’s peaceful intentions, just look at how normal life is slowly returning to the areas Ukraine’s army has liberated—yes, liberated—from the “rebels.” Look again at Kramatorsk and Slovyansk. Now tell me these people aren’t happy to be rid of “Russian defenders”!

Wake up. Unplug yourself from the alternative reality propagated by Russian media. Seek facts. Think.

Don’t make it any easier for Putin to continue his “plausible deniability” campaign. It’s time all rational people stood up to him. He has already gotten away with breaking too many rules and causing far too much pain and suffering. If you let him get away with plunging Russia into a full-fledged war with Ukraine, this won’t be the end.

Putin will stop only where a true red line is drawn.

It’s up to all of us to show him where that is.

Ukrainian Flag Blue Yellow

My mission? A peaceful Ukraine

It’s been less than a week since I’ve published my open letter to Putin.

The response has been overwhelming. None of my posts have ever gone this viral on social media, or gotten read by so many people from all over the world. I’m happy my words have an impact.

Some of the people left comments, too. Kind, compassionate comments. I’m thankful for all of them. But yesterday a troll (Meki) galloped across the comment section, leaving outbursts of misguided words and hate in his wake. Some of his comments were deleted for personally insulting my other readers and their words. Most of his comments were left intact and can still be seen below the original post.

I want to focus on one of these comments, which mimicked my “open letter” format. My responses below aren’t meant to give legitimacy to this type of trolling. I realize that, in all likelihood, Meki has moved on to troll other forums. He (she?) is not interested in hearing my opinions. Responses here are for those who are curious about my take on the sad happenings in Ukraine. Let’s treat it as a sort of Q&A session (because “Daniel argues with a troll session” isn’t nearly as glamorous). Sadly, I’ve heard Meki’s words come from some people I’ve spoken to over the past few days. Here are my answers to them:

Dear Beloved Daniel,

By the way, what do you think about Afghanistan invaded by americans, Pakistan doomed by americans, Palestine is being haunted by nazi israilians with the support of americans, Iraq always had anonymous biological guns which will spray the chemical on americans just like they did on Vietnamese, all Vietnamese are terrorists because they do not honor americana, syria is some kind of bastard which doesn’t allow their people to breath since 1000s of years and people are dying there at the rate of 49/minute; Wow! Saudi Arabia is a great Muslim country who sells a lot of oil to americans so they can ship guns to mexico.

Despite the fact that most of the above is rambling gibberish and an ugly mix of truths, half-truths, and straight up nonsense, I think I hear what you’re saying.

The US government has made a lot of recognized foreign policy blunders, repercussions of which are still being felt. I don’t think you’ll find many informed people arguing with this notion. I have just read an interesting article discussing some of the underlying reasons for the current tension between the East and West over Ukraine. What I think about these matters is entirely irrelevant, since I’m neither a political expert nor someone with any proximity to the decision-making that takes place in country governments. I’m going to go ahead and assume that neither are you. Let’s leave it at that and move on.

I would like to make it clear that as you “take care” of many countries then Comrade Putin has also right to take care of couple of countries.

This is profoundly, categorically wrong.

First off, let’s even go as far as to assume that America is the unilateral aggressor that you want to present it as. That does not, by any stretch of logic, give anyone else the right to act in a similar fashion. If anything, people who truly are against the “evil invader” approach should be unequivocally against other countries doing the same.

Secondly, I am emphatically against anybody “taking care” of my country, when “taking care” means the use of military force. I’d be speaking out in the same way if US or European troops were in Ukraine trying to dictate future developments. Today, however, Russia is the only country seizing total control of Crimea under the guise of protecting Ukraine from a phantom threat. More on that later.

Ukraine is in dire need of economic, political, and social reforms that slowly start moving it toward a stable and corruption-free country. It has years, if not decades, to go. All I want, all most Ukrainians want, is to build this future by ourselves, without external military interference. I trust that, given the chance, Ukraine would be wise enough to cooperate with all outside partners, including Russia, US, EU, and others. The country simply can’t do without them. But this must be a matter for diplomats and politicians, not soldiers.

I’m not a Comrade Putin lover; but I must clear you that the person whom you are saying “dead” in above picture is not dead but lying down. Soldiers are firing in the air and he is doing what a good citizen should do.

Congratulations, you have managed to miss the point entirely. The person in the picture was presented as “dead” by the propaganda machine, and the pictures prove the falsehood of this claim. Also, notice that the “dead body” is wearing military uniform. If this wasn’t a staged event (which it was), the job of a soldier wouldn’t entail “lying down” as a “good citizen,” but fighting the alleged aggressors.

How do I know that this scenario is absolute, utter horseshit? Because to this day—since the tragic events of late February, in which almost 100 people died in Kiev in the clashes between rioters and police in the revolt that eventually brought about Yanukovich’s downfall—nobody in Ukraine has been killed by the alleged “fascist” forces. The article I linked to dives deeper into the propaganda-versus-reality picture.

I know Russia attacked on Afghanistan but they didn’t kill people, they didn’t create a Guantanamo, they didn’t took educated women in the name of God, so-called democracy and terrorism, they didn’t strengthen their economy via selling guns, they didn’t support locals to produce cocaine, they didn’t give name “terrorist, taliban” to enemy fighters. They didn’t train their soldiers that we are in the war with all muslim states around the world.

I’ve addressed most of this in my first answer, but I’d like to linger a bit on the “didn’t train their soldiers [to believe] that we are [at war]” part. This is precisely what Putin’s propaganda machine is doing. They have created a scary, powerful, and threatening enemy in the Right Sector movement. They are systematically training people to see the Right Sector as a real, substantial threat, from which Ukraine’s citizens need to be protected by the Russian army.

I won’t claim to fully understand the Right Sector’s motivations and ideology. I’m not naive enough to believe that they’re all peace-loving revolutionaries (is that maybe an oxymoron?). I have seen videos of some of their members acting decidedly uncivilized, bullying policemen, and getting into near-fist-fights with public officers. What I have also seen in many of those videos, is peaceful Ukrainians interfering and not letting things escalate.

What I find much more potent and relevant to focus on is the recent poll showing that just over 2 percent of the population would consider voting for Dmitro Yarosh (leader of the Right Sector) if he ran for president. Or this article, in which a rival politician and rights campaigner says this about the Right Sector: “But I don’t see much room for their radicalism now in democratic politics. Ukrainians are tolerant. Right Sector will have some small support if it develops as a political party, maybe five to seven percent of the vote. I don’t see a big political future for them.”

They’re a radical, marginal group, and are seen as such by most tolerant and objective people of Ukraine. To claim that the Right Sector is a real threat to Ukraine and its politics is akin to claiming the same about the KKK in the US. And even that is a poor comparison, since the Right Sector claims to not be racially biased. The last article I’ve linked to (here it is again) does a decent job of presenting a good picture of the group and its political future (or lack thereof).

And yet, despite all of this, the propaganda machine is succeeding to a large extent. Their systematic repetition of the “fascist threat” rhetoric is turning people against each other. It evokes fear and anger in people I personally know: people whom I know to otherwise be compassionate and kind and objective. People who are deliberately trained to see an imagined enemy as a threat, instead of channeling their passions and emotions toward building a stable and peaceful country.

And it breaks my heart.

And I hope and pray that these negative emotions won’t triumph over objectivity and peacefulness. It would be devastatingly sad for me to see this happen to the country where I grew up.

Okay, the women who are crying. They are crying because their relatives are in Russia and Ukraine both. They do not want any war; that’s why they have tears.

Wrong. I have had the chance to actually watch the interview. The woman is allegedly a resident of Odessa who wants Putin to come and rescue her from the fascists. In another video the (very possibly) same woman is agitating people to create a pro-Russian crowd against the fascists in Kharkov (where I grew up). Since I’ve published my last post there were further alleged sightings of this woman in other cities of Ukraine. Granted, I cannot personally confirm many of these claims. There’s a degree of subjectivity and bias on both sides. However, what I know about the situation, combined with what I have written above about the true threat of the Right Sector, juxtaposed against the woman’s decidedly exaggerated wording about the state of affairs, does indeed make me suspect her of being an agent provocateur. Even if I am wrong about this specific woman, I have already seen enough other blatant propaganda to form my opinion and feelings about it—that feeling is endless disgust, if you’re wondering.

You did touch upon a very important thing though. People do indeed have relatives and friends in both countries. Regular Ukrainians and Russians have been very friendly to each other over the years. Most of them can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to become enemies if things escalate.

That’s why kind, unifying, touching videos are being made, where Ukrainian people speak directly to their Russian brothers. Videos that don’t focus on the “us against them” rhetoric, but speak out for peace and against war.

Videos like this one, or this one, or this one.

And it warms my heart.

And it makes me believe that, in the midst of all this surreal insanity, these people and these messages are the ones that speak the loudest. The alternative, to me, is inconceivable.

Okay You say there are gays and their love is as ultimate as your mama/papa’s. We should respect them because you believe that they will be able to birth cute Daniels in coming years, right? I wish your papa could be a gay so you can see from sky and ask why you are not getting into life.

You don’t know how sentences work, do you? You can’t just throw a bunch of words into a hat, pull them out at random, and assemble them into a word-soup, hoping that others may understand you. Your message appears to be “GAYS BAD. OTHER THINGS. HAHAHA.”

That’s fine, you’re entitled to your opinion. I disagree with you completely, but I won’t be changing your mind. I am a firm believer in equal rights for everyone, regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, and opinions on lemon-flavored cookies. I want Ukraine to be a country that embraces this type of tolerance. And I’m far from alone. Unfortunately, Russia has a long way to go to (at least politically) acknowledge the rights of many such groups. This is one of the reasons I am against Russia’s attempt to heavy-handedly influence developments in Ukraine.

And so nicely, you called them pro-russian actors just like you and your supporters are made of milk and honey. No discussion, on such illogical statements. You fat black Buffalo; you’re totally black yourself. How you dare to ask cow, “move away from my way you black tail cow”.

Uuuuuuhm, milk and honey. Delicious!

Please (all migrated) americans do not mess with the world, Let us live in peace. Every year we’ll be giving you a thanks giving. I wish your last sentence may come true so we can get rid of you.

For the record (not that it really matters), I’m a Ukrainian living in Denmark. You would have known that if you have bothered to read my post properly, instead of smashing your fingers on the keyboard to write angry words.

But, once again, you manage to say something useful. Namely, the “let us live in peace” part. That’s what I want: for Russia’s politicians to learn to let go and give Ukraine space to live in peace. To let Ukrainians try and settle any possible internal disputes, and together start building a better future.

These may be romantic, even naive, hopes.

But I so want to believe we are capable of making the right choices. I so want to believe that the Ukrainian people at large are tolerant, kind, and reasonable. I so want to believe that, despite our corruption- and turmoil-filled past, we are smart enough to learn from history and start making the right decisions and, slowly, very slowly, turning our country around.

My only mission in all of this is to root for a peaceful resolution to this complex, polarizing, and sad standoff. You said it, Meki—let us live in peace!

***

I leave you all with a little parody skit mocking Russian propaganda, made by a bunch of Ukrainians who haven’t lost their sense of humour in all of this. It even has English subtitles. It makes me immensely happy to see these types of videos being made. A country that hasn’t lost its sense of humour during such sad times is a country I’m proud to have been born in. It’s a country that I trust can pull through this horrible mess with optimism and grace. For without humour, things would look all too depressing indeed: