Kindergartens and high risers destroyed. Civilians killed with impunity. Half a million evacuees, women and children. Charred wrecks of Russian tanks and trucks. And a determined will of Ukrainians to resist to the end.
How did it come to this?
Boris Nemtsov (1959-2015)
We can see Ukraine through the eyes of Boris Nemtsov. An opponent of Putin, vocal against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from 2014 – this is when Donetsk and Luhansk were taken over by pro-Russian forces, and Crimea was occupied by Russia.
Both Russia and Ukraine were weaker, then. The Russian build-up that followed was paid with hard currency from European countries in exchange for deliveries of natural gas and oil.
Nemtsov was killed in 2015 by paid assassins in front of the Kremlin. It was a political murder of a remarkable man.
From a 2014 Nemtsov interview:
– We’re the two big Slavic countries. If one of us — Ukraine — manages to become European, it will be a beacon, a guiding star, for those of us in Russia. We’ll be able to say: “We’ve had it with your miserable, corrupt Byzantium. Your iron curtains, your aggression, your hatred of all living things. Here you sit with your riot police and your batons — while over there is Kyiv! The capital of Kyivan Rus’.
Russians have revolted in Moscow and in St Petersburg many times. They are now demonstrating for peace. Putin police is arresting them by the thousands.
He controls the media channels. The Ukrainian war is not a war – for Russians, it is reported as a special operation.
Ukrainians have something unheard of: when things don’t work, they take the street, and throw leaders out. Putin can’t have this in a sister country. It gives ideas to the Russian people.
From another 2014 interview:
– Nemtsov does not want Russians to die. Or Ukrainians to die. He does not want refugees. Already, by 2015, he says, there were a million refugees from the war.
– He considered Putin’s 2014 war on Ukraine a crime. This was not, Nemtsov says, Russia’s war, but Putin’s war.
– Putin was already cynical, and criminal to start this absolutely bloody fratricidal war against the fraternal people of Ukraine.
– Putin’s goal, already in 2014, was to hold on, at any cost, to power for life.
– He sent federal troops to Ukraine in 2014 without approval from the Duma, which is a crime according to Russian law with no statute of limitations.
– Putin is taking revenge on Ukraine for its anti-criminality revolution from 2014. The result of this revolution was that the corrupt president of Ukraine was kicked out. He’s doing this to prove to Russians that such a way of overthrowing a thieving, disgusting corrupt official is absolutely unacceptable.
– Putin sees a big threat in a European Ukraine. This is a democracy, it exercises direct choice, it has change of power, it has triumph of the rule of law, and so on. It contradicts the vector of sole power, police state, lack of rights, arbitrariness, corruption.
– Therefore, success for Ukraine on the European path is, of course, a catastrophe for Putin. And is a chance for free Russia to repeat the democratic success of Ukraine.
– Of course this is a crime, of course the death of people is a catastrophe, of course to make an enemy of fraternal people is terrible.
– He sends 20 years old paratroopers (in 2014!) to die there from the 7th and 6th division of paratroopers. The 98th division was sent there. Two motorized brigades [he continues to list multiple Russian divisions and units sent to Ukraine]
– The commander in chief [Putin] said condolences at least once. Dead boys are buried in the cemetery in secret, and relatives are scared that they lose their benefits, so they won’t tell the truth.
– This is such a vile war in relation to your own military personnel. This is not even a crime, it is such meanness and infamy, and, in general, it is an unforgettable story.
– What he hopes for is complete misinformation. Few people watch the Internet. Most people watch ‘agitprop’, namely television. On TV, they are told there is a mythical war with some militias – that they are bands of fascists, they are on drugs.
– The lies and the suppression of truth are the principal reasons why Russian people support Putin and the so-called militias against the so-called bands of fascists. If it were not so, the obvious information about the death of the paratroopers would be too hard to hush up.
– He can scold as much as he wants the opposition as saying anti-Russian things, but how can you scold a mother or wife who mourns the death of her son.
– Most people treat their children as children. When they are treated like cannon fodder, I am convinced that the situation of the military guys who serve in Ukraine, who fight there, who die there, this truthful information would turn the public opinion upside down in just a few days.
The US did not recognize the 2014 invasion of Ukraine as a war by Russia. Nemtsov will list you the names of the Russian Army units who went incognito to fight that war. Maybe we should be less skittish to help Ukrainians. Putin already broke all the rules in regards to treaties and international law.
Ukraine security was guaranteed by both Russia and the US in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons. Russia broke that treaty in 2014.
Even if it wins, Ukraine alone can’t rid the world of Putin. Nemtsov says only the Russian people can bring Putin down. And they will do so when they see the human cost of the invasion, the criminal assault on cities and civilians.
Ukraine will always be free. Its spirit is strong. Instead of regime change in Kiev, what we should get is – the Russian people to change regime in Moscow.