Friday, April 3, 2015

A "Reign of Terror:" Russia in Ukraine

Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland called a spade a spade.  It's refreshing.  She labeled Russia's invasion and occupation of Ukraine a "reign of terror."

My friends in eastern Ukraine, not far from the city of Lugansk, have been saying this for a while.  "We live in constant fear."   Almost all the NGO directors and workers I knew have fled Lugansk and Donetsk oblasts; they're living in Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa, Khargiv, and other places.  "I was on a list of 'fascists' targeted for extinction," one friend told me simply.  
I lived in a house similar to this in Starobelsk, a larger version with large kitchen,
extra bedroom, beautiful built-ins, a patio for outdoor meals.  It was surrounded
by veggie and flower gardens and beautiful trees, apricot and plum and apple. 
Stealth and lies.  Putin has admitted what most folks have known for a long time, that he planned the takeover of Crimea.  He continues his ferocious military and propaganda campaign to destroy and destabilize Ukraine. The Sea of Azov region is threatened. The proxies are being armed and trained. They want more "trophies," as they call the Donetsk airport, Debaltseve, and other decimated towns.
Donetsk airport, yahoo news image. 
The only way to end this war is for Russia to get out of Ukraine.  But Putin has no intention of withdrawing his troops and weapons. Never did.  He has already broken international laws. It began when he invaded and occupied Crimea. It continues as he aggresses against the territorial integrity and soverignity of a foreign country.  His word means nothing.

This is why Minsk 2 is a joke.  Think about it.   How dare Russia demand that Ukraine change its Constitution to "accommodate" the so-called "autonomy" of the Donbas, ravaged and occupied by Putin's proxies, orechestrated from Moscow.  Why should Ukraine have to make constitutional changes under the circumstances? Why should they follow Putin's dictates, precisely his ploy at Minsk? Certainly a country that's the victim of aggression should not have to change its constitution in the interests of the aggressors.

It's been a year, and Crimea has succumbed to Stalinist-like terror campaigns of Russification, militarization, and rampant human rights abuses.  Anyone who is opposed to the Russian takeover is a target of threats, attacks by thugs, and murder.  The abuses against the Tatars and anyone who opposes Putin are relentless--homes, NGOs, cultural institutions, media outlets destroyed, shut down. This is what lies in store for the occupied Donbas. And frankly, until Crimeans and Donbas citizens rise up and oppose the occupation of Ukrainian land, those who welcomed and still welcome Russian rule deserve what they wished for. They fell for the super hyped-up propaganda, were paid to storm public buildings and wave flags, were promised larger pensions and other things that Russia can't deliver on, were whipped into a frenzy of blind nationalist hysteria. Now they are being paid to post Russian propaganda replies on social media, a whole army of sheep on Russia's payroll.  I've received several, accusing me of "fascist lies."

It's powerful: ramped-up propaganda in concert with military force.  Brutal and brutish.

I think the President and his administration and the EU understand this.  No one believes Putin. Nuland is not alone. Few accept the legality or legitimacy of the Russian invasion and occupation of  Ukraine.  But it's a tough call. No one wants war with Russia. Putin is reckless. A dangerous trickster.

"Are we next?"  my friends in Starobelsk ask, anticipating an attack, wondering what they should do, thinking about leaving their homes, thinking of the safety of their children.  "It's constant stress, day in and day out. We survive as best we can.  We work in our gardens.  We preserve.  We share. We help each other."  

I don't know if there is a realistic way to secure Ukraine's borders.  A multi-million dollar Wall is not the answer. Other economic and social needs are so great.  Maybe UN peacekeepers?  There's been a notable silence on this issue. Maybe nothing will work. Maybe the "reign of terror" will go on and on.  Right now, that's how it feels.  I can't imagine living in such fear, day in and day out.

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