Monday, March 3, 2014

A voice from Ukraine

This morning, I read yet another a media report casually mentioning the "allegiances of eastern Ukrainians", as if the people there were just itching to fight for one or the other side.  Dear American friends: no matter how many times you've talked about moving to Canada after a political defeat, if a Canadian army walked into Detroit, you wouldn't cheer.  Let's ignore for a moment the absurdity of this image: unless you're a particularly red-blooded American, you also wouldn't put in that much resistance.

Ukraine is not some kind of exotic Eastern despotate.  Its democratically elected government may rob its citizens, but it doesn't usually deprive them of their rights arbitrarily.  When Yanukovych crossed this line, he was deposed.  The people of Ukraine are people just like you: if offered a choice between peace and war in their country they would choose peace.

I want to share this blogpost by a certain Svetlana Panina which offers a view from Crimea.  A translation follows.
I don't believe anyone right now. Not politicians, not the Internet, not my neighbors. I believe only the things I see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears. Even those can lie, but at least that's something to rely on. 
Last night I rode the train to Kiev. Because it was important to me to see what's happening in Kiev, with my own eyes. The train from Sevastopol to Kiev, mostly filled with women and children. With big suitcases. You could see they were leaving for a long time. They disembarked in various Ukrainian cities. Most spoke Ukrainian. After Sevastopol was captured by "unknown men" from the "self-defense forces" who hoisted a Russian flag, people living in Sevastopol who spoke Ukrainian sensed that they were in danger. A train leaving Sevastopol, packed with women and children. It reminded me of an evacuation. 
In Simferopol, where I was coming from, schools and banks were closed. The city center was barricaded by people with machine guns. There were men armed with submachine guns on the roofs of administrative buildings. In Russia, as you'd expect, they were "doing military exercises" near the Ukrainian border. If this was "self-defense", I personally have no idea who was defending themselves from whom. There were no invaders or aggressors here until the "unknown men" captured the Crimean parliament building and hoisted the Russian flag. 
Normal people in shops were telling each other that it was the "Maidanovtsy" who had captured the Crimean parliament, and that they hoisted the Russian flag for camouflage. I wonder, does anyone still believe this? 
Right now I'm in Kiev. I came to look with my own eyes at the scary Maidanovtsy. There are no machine guns here. People calmly move around the city center. The Maidan is drowning in flowers -- people coming from every direction bring bouquets and torches. The streets are clean. The shop windows are intact. I recognize all the places I saw in the horrible snapshots that came from the Maidan. Now it's all an enormous monument in memory of the victims. There's no fear or apprehension here. People cry and hug each other. They also smile and ask if you want any tea. I feel totally released from all the apprehension and feeling of danger that hung over me for a long three months. 
But when I left Kiev's main square, friends called me and asked if I'd heard the news: Russian troops were going to deploy in Crimea. How is that news? They're already there. Three days ago, in the guise of "unknown men", they captured the airports and government buildings of Crimea. That the Russian president says that he's going to deploy something somewhere, that's kind of a post facto announcement. Like, we already deployed troops, and then we had a meeting, asked each other, and decided to deploy them officially. The only ones they forgot to ask were the people of Crimea. I don't know a single friend or neighbor, even if they really love Russia and vote for Russia with both hands raised, who would say "I want a Russian APC parked by my house." No one wanted machine guns on the roof of the parliament building. No one wanted a barricaded, deserted central Simferopol. No one in Crimea wants war. And when the military of a neighboring country walks into your city without asking, that means war, right? 
Please, everyone who loves Crimea, everyone who loves Russians in Crimea. Help me carry this thought through to every heart. The Russians in Crimea didn't ask Russian soldiers to come to our homes! No one attacked us! We were living in peace and comfort! We were waiting for our summer guests from Russia and Ukraine, and from other countries all over the world, after all, Crimea is a gem that belongs to the whole planet. 
Citizens of Russia, you pay taxes and send your children to the army. Right now, with your money and using your children Russia is preparing for war. An unjust war that doesn't protect anyone's interests, that will destroy the Crimea that you love.  No one will win anything from this war. I know that it's not within your power to stop it. Just know that it's happening this very moment. 
At this moment, Russia and Ukraine are on the brink of war. The Russian president consulted the Duma and they decided to deploy the Russian military in Crimea. From the point of view of international law, an unsanctioned deployment of troops in the territory of another country is called a "military invasion." That means war. War, where people kill each other. Because after all, Ukraine is a country with its own military, with borders that are clearly defined on a world map, and it's simply obligated to defend those borders. In any armed conflict, civilians are killed. As long as Russian troops have not officially entered Crimean territory, there's no war. Let's all pray, the hardest we can, that this doesn't happen. 
I'm closing comments. Sorry, everyone. Everyone who shares our worries, thank you. But at the moment I can't read discussions by people who don't care or are cynical. Everything I've written here is my personal address to those who might be touched by it. If you're not touched, please move along. Write something for yourselves. Something about kitties, for example.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe a better analogy than Canada invading Detroit is France invading Quebec. I don't think French-speaking Quebecois would welcome that development, but their feelings about it would be complicated.