Ukraine’s Friend & Foe Of The Week
Editor’s Note: This feature separates Ukraine’s friends from its enemies. The Order of Yaroslav the Wise has been given since 1995 for distinguished service to the nation. It is named after the Kyivan Rus leader from 1019-1054, when the medieval empire reached its zenith. The Order of Lenin was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union, whose demise Russian President Vladimir Putin mourns. It is named after Vladimir Lenin, whose corpse still rots on the Kremlin’s Red Square, 100 years after the October Revolution he led.
In March 2014, as the West was watching gape-mouthed at the Kremlin’s audacious invasion and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea, Russian journalist Yulia Latynina was predicting the launch of Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine.
“In last Tuesday’s speech at the Kremlin before the treaty-signing ceremony incorporating Crimea into Russia, Putin practically declared that Russia has rights to southeastern Ukraine,” Latynina wrote in an article for the Englishlanguage Moscow Times on March 24, 2014.
“He also used the words ‘divided nation’ and ‘national traitors’ — just as Adolf Hitler had done when he referred to national ‘Verräter’ or traitors,” Latynina went on.
She also correctly pointed out that Putin would focus his war on the south-east of Ukraine, at a time when some commentators in the West were seriously discussing whether Russia might even attempt to occupy Kyiv.
At that time, it did seem likely that Putin might try to create a land bridge to Crimea from the Donbas through Zaporizhzhya and Kherson oblasts, and even extend it through Mykolaiyiv and Odesa oblasts to link up with Transnistria, another Kremlin-created statelet.
In the end Putin’s plans failed due to unexpected resistance from Ukrainians in the Donbas, most of whom were against separatism and supported Ukraine, and the Kremlin was left with two unviable proxy entities lacking even a decent seaport.
Even so, Latynina was remarkably perceptive in deducing Putin’s plans so early on, and so her decision on Sept. 9 to flee Russia because of threats to her life and the lives of her family is hardly likely to be an overreaction.
Latynina, who is frequently critical of the Putin regime, has long been a target of intimidation.
Her car was set on fire on Sept. 3. In July, unidentified men released a noxious gas into her family home through a window — eight people, including children, were affected, Latynina said.
And in August 2016, Latynina had a bucket of feces poured on her on her way to host her weekly Ekho Moskvy radio show on politics.
Putin can play much dirtier than that. Deadlier, in fact. Over the course of his 17-year rule of Russia, dozens of high-profile opposition politicians and journalists critical of Putin’s authoritarian rule have been murdered.
So Latynina is wise to quit Russia for now, and earns the Order of Yaroslav the Wise for standing up to Ukraine’s chief foe so bravely. Long may she do so.
Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minister, has been quick to support Kremlin proposals ever since Russia launched its war on Ukraine in the Donbas in the spring of 2014.
In August 2014, when Gabriel was leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, he said he supported a federal structure for Ukraine, adding that Germany wanted to prevent there being direct conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
A federal structure is, of course, what the Kremlin has been pushing for all along as a way to divide and weaken Ukraine, which it sees as an unruly rogue province, and not an independent state. And in late August 2104, Russia, although it denied it, was indeed in direct conflict with Ukraine — its artillery had shelled Ukrainian troops across the border on several occasions, and at least four invading Russian infantry battalions are thought to have been involved in the encirclement and slaughter of Ukrainian forces in Ilovaisk that same month.
Then, when Russia launched its surprise intervention in Syria in September 2015 to prop up the regime of its client dictator Bashar Al-Assad, Gabriel suggested easing sanctions on Russia imposed for its aggression against Ukraine, in exchange for the Kremlin’s “cooperation” in Syria.
No surprise then, that when on Sept. 5 Russia’s authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin suggested that the UN send a peacekeeping mission into Ukraine, Gabriel was quick to voice his support. Then on Sept. 11, after Putin called German Chancellor Angela Merkel to propose an even wider peacekeeping mission in the Donbas, Gabriel suggested that sanctions on Russia could eventually be lifted if the current cease-fire in the Donbas holds. That, of course, is a long way off Germany’s official position that the Minsk peace agreement must be implemented in full before sanctions are relaxed. The Minsk agreement also foresees the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Donbas, and the restoration of the Ukrainian government’s control of its side of the Ukrainian-Russian border. Gabriel, in contrast, appears to be supporting a frozen conflict in return for a cease-fire — a deal that would suit Putin perfectly.
Of course, Gabriel’s boss, Chancellor Angela Merkel, will have the final say — and she is no friend of Putin or supporter of the Kremlin’s interests. It’s good that she’s ultimately in charge in Germany, and not Gabriel, who earns the title of Ukraine’s Foe of the Week and an Order of Lenin for backing Putin’s schemes.
Order of Lenin
Order of Yaroslav The Wise