Ukraine’s Friend & Foe Of The Week

Kyiv Post - - Opinion - – Euan Mac­Don­ald – Euan Mac­Don­ald

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

Sig­mar Gabriel

Yu­lia Latyn­ina

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