On the day Kyiv’s local entertainment and culture guide comes off the press and is being distributed throughout the capital, a meeting between the Presidents of the United States and Russia will be taking place in Helsinki, Finland. We thought it prudent however to put a together a few bullet points on the realities UA has faced in recent years therefore so that everyone is clear on what has happened, when, how, and why. Maybe someone will be able to get these crib notes smuggled to Mr Trump just as he heads into the summit…
The historical evidence for any kind of separatist sentiment in eastern Ukraine is essentially non-existent. You’d think that would be something more people understood and paid attention to. The situation in the Donbas isn’t akin to age-old demands by parts of the local populations of Scotland or Catalonia. A tiny “pro-separatist” movement did exist in Donbas some years ago, but local support was a few hundred people, tops. And this was a group that was formed, paid for, and organised by, guess who? Russia. For comparison, the pre-war population of the Donbas was nearly 5 million.
Towns and cities that had previously been occupied in eastern Ukraine are now at peace. This is another important reminder of the manufactured nature of this war. Ground Zero in terms of the military conflict in Ukraine was Slovyansk. It was portrayed by Russia as a local uprising. But after the four-month occupation of their city ended, Slovyansk locals went back about their business. Slovyansk exists quite peacefully on government territory; we were supposed to believe it was once a hot bed of anti-Ukrainian passion. It wasn’t, and it never was.
Russia has pretty much ignored all elements of Minsk. All of them. They have never followed a ceasefire. Humanitarian aid is not delivered by an international mechanism. Prisoners being held hostage as bargaining chips have not been released. Before Minsk II was ignored, Minsk I was ignored. Before Minsk I was ignored, the Geneva Peace Accord was ignored, by Russia.
Despite denials that have lasted for more than four years, the evidence of Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine is overwhelming, undeniable, and available from many reputable sources. It is proven, for example, beyond reasonable doubt, that Russia has shelled Ukraine from Russian territory. This is a fact.
Not only does Russia control the military operation in eastern Ukraine (in every way, from the chain of command to logistics of supplies, foot soldiers, ammunition, tanks, APCs, and artillery) but Russia also controls the “civilian” infrastructure in the occupied parts of Donbas as well.
Everything is overseen by the Kremlin. This can be proven by examining the Emails of Vladislav Surkov, one of Putin’s most trusted aides, who is the curator for Russia’s Ukraine project.
Another important Kremlin aide is Sergei Glazyev, he features prominently in tapes of bugged phone conversations called the Glazyev Tapes, in which he is heard discussing creating “local” uprisings in other areas of Ukraine, so that “people’s republics” of Zaporizhi, Odesa, and Kharkiv could be formed. These were all part of what was originally a plan, once mentioned by Putin, to carve Ukraine into a rump state with the eastern and southern territories (along with access to the Black and Azov seas cut off) becoming a Kremlin-managed entity called “Novorussia”. Why did Novorussia fail? Because not enough locals wanted it or had ever even heard of it prior to Spring 2014.
Just for the record, the military annexation of Crimea needs to be noted. Putin has repeatedly claimed that he acted in defence of the ethnic Russian population on the peninsula. No evidence of there being any threat whatsoever to residents of Crimea exists, because the threat was not real, it was a pretense. Putin lied.
On top of that, Mr Trump should also bear in mind that Russia abets Bashar Al Assad in the committing of war crimes in Syria. Then Mr. Putin uses his veto in the UN to make sure that Assad avoids anything like an appropriate response for his vile actions.
Lastly, there is of course the tragic case of the shooting down of civilian airliner MH17. Two Hundred and nintey-eight people died at the hands of men and equipment from the 53rd Air Defence Brigade in Kursk, Russia. Ultimately, responsibility for this heinous crime lies with the chain of command of Russia’s military, and the Commander in Chief is Vladimir Putin.
Paul Niland is a long-time resident of Kyiv, political commentator, and founder of Statement Email