Let us contextualise what is a delicate moment in international relations and ask ourselves what, if any, alternative actions could have been taken?
Let me start by saying that unlike most of my readers, I have fired practically every type of gun imaginable, from pistols to automatic rifles, to light and heavy machine guns and so I am well aware of the impact they have on a cardboard target on a firing range and even more aware of the impact they have on the body of a human being. I am also aware of the tragedy which is the loss of a soldier, or a civilian, felt by any family anywhere and the tears they cry taste of salt, whether they are for a Russian soldier, a Ukrainian soldier, a Russian-speaking resident of Donbass or a Ukrainian-speaking resident of a village near the contact zone.
It gives me no pleasure at all to sit here writing this piece today and I can assure my readers, all of them, that I am very concerned about what is unfolding before my eyes. However, as journalists we have a duty to express the facts in a logical and objective manner, to inform, not to create excuses or twist the reality. As journalists our reputation is based on how many people bother to read what we write and on the register we leave on the Internet even after we have stopped writing. This depends on the content we produce. A journalist is not just a blogger, we hold an international card as correspondent or journalist, which is paid for and which gives us permission to write. So what we write should matter.
Personally, I like to do a lot of reading and listening before I do any speaking or writing, and so even those who hold diametrically opposed political views to my own as a rule respect my opinion and tell me that I am “painfully close to the mark” on such occasions. Unlike many others, I am not here to reiterate propaganda or to act as a messenger from someone who has told me what to say. Nobody tells me what to write. Or what not to write. It comes from the heart, I tell the truth. And here today I am going to present a context for the situation in Ukraine. I would urge people to read it to the end, and then form an opinion.
Western media outlets like to draw time lines as their political masters like to draw lines on maps, presenting a skewed version of the truth. Looking at the headlines on their papers this morning is just another view of the cloud cuckoo land in which they live and which they present to their viewers and readers. Even those who claim to be independent include sexy soundbites to sex up a story or to demonise someone. Demonology is what they do best.
Let us therefore draw the time line at the beginning, upon the formation of Ukraine, which means “The Edge” or “Border region” in Russian/Ukrainian (similar languages). Edge, Border, of what? Of Russia and all the peoples which constituted the Kingdom of Rus, which included Kiev, Bielorussia and Russia itself, among parts of other countries/peoples today. This, centuries before the integration of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and before independence as a State in 1991, during which time Crimea (Russia) had been donated to Ukraine by the Ukrainian Soviet President Krushchyov, in what some describe as a drunken act of stupidity taken on a whim, simply because he could, and by which time around 20 per cent of the population of Ukraine were Russian-speaking, following Russian customs and traditions and the Russian Orthodox Church, as a rule more concentrated the further east one goes. Today this region is called the Basin of the River Don, or Donbass and these people live in the regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.
So far, I believe most of my readers will agree with me.
Up until 2014, when a coup d’état, or Putsch, conducted by a group of politicians, including Fascists, ousted the democratically elected President, Viktor Yanukovich, the people of Donbass had enjoyed cultural freedom. They could send their children to Russian-speaking schools, if they wanted, they could speak and use Russian language and customs freely, they could frequent the Russian Orthodox Church and live as Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Some married Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians and had mixed families and during Soviet times, and in general up until 2014, Ukrainians and Russians (although some Russians differentiated between Eastern and Western Ukrainians when describing them) considered themselves as brothers and sisters.
Now, 2014 is where the picture turned darker and more sinister. Eye witnesses have told me, and I am speaking about professional registered journalists working for western media, that during the tumult in so-called Maidan Square in Kiev, shots were fired into the crowd not by the Ukrainian police force but by unmarked operatives from Hotel Ukraina, more specifically from the fifth and sixth floors, to create “martyrs” and whip up the population. I cannot say whether this happened, I was not there. Would I be surprised? No, not in today’s world.
What happened in the following weeks was agglomerations of groups of thugs, wearing Nazi insignia, and carrying fire-arms, chanting “Death to Russians and Jews” on the streets and attacking Russian-speaking Ukrainians and Jews, in Kiev. I hope there are no Jewish people saying today how terrible Vladimir Putin is. These attacks turned into massacres in Slavyansk, in Odessa, in Mariupol, in Donetsk, in Eastern Ukraine, as cleaning ladies were strangled with telephone wire. Defenceless grandmothers were attacked by Fascist thugs bawling obscenities and spewing hatred, wearing neo-Nazi uniforms. Wearing swastikas. I wrote about this at the time and it was denied by those supporting Kiev. A lot of the material has been scratched from the Net (sorry guys yes this does happen and it happens in those countries which speak about freedom of expression. They doctor images or wipe them out including reports and videos. Try to find the one from RAI Uno about aircraft flying over Iraq in the 1990s strafing the fields of cereals to set fire to the crops and cause famine among Iraq’s civilian population, try to find the reports of the Fascist Massacres in Ukraine, where Russian-speaking civilians were murdered in cold blood). Google up Azov Battalion. Google up Biden + energy + Ukraine.
Only then did the Russian-speaking Ukrainians of Donbass take up arms to defend themselves and protect their culture. They were defending themselves from Fascists and Neo-Nazis, they were not invading Ukraine.
2015. Minsk Agreements. These were a series of agreements signed by the Trilateral Contact Group (Ukraine, Russian, OSCE – Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and representatives of the Peoples Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk (the Russian-speaking Ukrainians defending themselves from neo-Nazis). The aim was to create an immediate ceasefire, something which did not work out basically because Ukraine, although it signed these agreements eight years ago, was never serious about implementing the conditions and recently stated publicly that it had no intention of doing so. It even murdered one of the signatories from Donbass in a terrorist attack.
During this eight-year period, Russia’s position was not to recognise the independence of the Russian-speaking Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk, which had proclaimed their independence from Ukraine due to the Fascist massacres, but to insist that they remain inside Ukraine under the terms of the Minsk agreements which guaranteed their safety and security and also their rights to enjoy their language, traditions and culture. Only when Ukraine stated it had no intention of implementing these rights and no intention of respecting the agreements that it had signed, and no intention of allowing the free practice of Russian culture among Russian-speaking Ukrainians, did Russia recognise the independence of the People’s Republics and pledge to defend their people from massacres by neo-Nazis.
This is where we stand today. When there is a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, I will write about it but as I said days ago, what we see today is confined only to the context I have just exposed. After eight years of insisting with Kiev and with its western partners to follow the terms of the Minsk Agreements, which Kiev signed, and with the build-up of sophisticated equipment in Ukraine, what course of action was Russia supposed to take?
Where were those complaining about Russia this morning during the fascist massacres of grandmothers by neo-Nazi thugs? Saying they did not exist is simply a shitfaced lie and those saying so should watch the videos and see if they would like their grandmother to be treated like that. Or couldn’t they care less? Where were these people complaining about Russia today while the Azov Battalion was marauding around Ukraine murdering people? Why was it not banned and its members thrown into jail? Where was Biden all this time? Google up Biden + energy + Ukraine. Biden is in this up to his neck.
And for those speaking about international law and saying “Yes, but Donbass is part of Ukraine”, yes it was. Russia has been saying this for the last eight years. Does that mean that the people should live in a hostile region, under fire, under attack by neo-Nazi thugs, unable to practise their culture, send their children to Russian-speaking schools, enjoy their traditions? How would the UK react if a territory inhabited by British people was attacked? Google up Falkland Islands.
For those complaining that there are Russian troops in Ukraine, well haven’t they been saying that for eight years? Why all the fuss suddenly now? Or were the Russian troops not in Ukraine until now? One thing or the other. Anyway given the current context and given that nobody has dissuaded Kiev from not following the Minsk agreements, what are they saying? That the Russian-speakers should all be massacred? Why don’t these people complaining this morning give political asylum to the Azov Battalion and insist that they strut around in their neo-Nazi uniforms murdering grandmothers in London or Washington? Go ahead, they are your little darlings.
And now Crimea. Ask those who say it was annexed by Russia if they are three years old, or what. Are they just pigshit thick, or plain stupid? Are they demented, or simpletons? Crimea was not annexed by Russia. After the democratically elected present was ousted in a neo-Nazi coup, after fascists took to the streets shouting “Death to Russians and Jews!”, the legal entity in power in the Republic of Crimea was the Parliament, or Assembly, which held a free and fair democratic referendum in which the people voted to return to Russia of their own free will. Ask them.
And as for international law, where was international law when the UK deported the entire population of the Chagos Islands, gassed their pets and gave the territory to the USA? Give me a break.
Where was international law when the highest legal entities on the planet told the UK to reverse this situation and even today London refuses to do so? I repeat, where is international law? Give me a break.
Where was international law when Iraq was invaded outside the auspices of the UNSC (United Nations Security Council)? Give me a break. Where was international law when military aircraft were strafing fields of cereals in Iraq? Give me a break. Where was international law when the Gaddafy grandchildren were fried alive, screaming, by a NATO aircraft and were then deemed a “legitimate target” by NATO? Give me a break. Where was international law when NATO breached Articles 1970 and 1973 (2011) in Libya? Give me a break. Where was international law when the same culprits as usual were using military hardware against civilian structures in Iraq and Libya? Give me a break. Where was international law when false flag operations took place in Syria (some outed here in pieces written by me before they happened), in which terrorists gassed civilian populations (sometimes even crawling with Government troops) to blame President Assad? Give me a break. Where was international law when the USA and UK were siding with terrorists in Syria? Give me a break. Where was international law when saboteurs, terrorists and murderers were sent over the borders of sovereign nations for decades by the same culprits as usual, to conduct acts of sabotage, terrorism or murder? Give me a break. Shove international law and sit on it, do not DARE to insult our intelligence by bringing this up today. You destroyed it.
So for these people crowing from the rooftops today, STFU!
Given what I have written above, what was President Putin supposed to do? What was Russia suposed to do? Kowtow to neo-Nazi thugs? This is the context of my piece, a context which is today very much restricted to this particular corner of what until now has been part of Ukraine. Now because of Kiev’s own actions, let us see.
Nobody has anything against Ukraine, or Ukrainians, be they from western or eastern Ukraine because they are as a rule as decent, pleasant and hard-working as anyone else anywhere on the planet. As a rule they are family people and they love their pets. Nobody has any issue with them. But the neo-Nazis of the Azov Battalion and others...do they deserve to be part of our planet in 2022? This is the main issue here, these people (?) and the victims they have caused.
Grandmothers being strangled with telephone wire, by neo-Nazi thugs.
To conclude, and once again, we must remember that everyone involved in a war suffers. The soldiers on both sides, their families, innocent civilians caught in the middle, forced to leave their homes, their pets in some cases, as waves of hatred are masterminded by the media. We as journalists should remember that we are not here to fan the flames of hatred, we are here to tell the truth which is the basis of respect for all sides.
Perhaps the Azov Battalion can decide whether they wish to shoot against armed soldiers and not strangle innocent grandmothers with telephone wire or maybe flee to their bedmasters in London and Washington. Now, dear readers, ask your outraged politicians why they have said nothing about these massacres, about neo-Nazis in Ukraine or attacks by the Azov Battalian on unarmed civilians and why they have not forced Kiev to implement the Minsk Agreements, which it signed.
Let us hope that this conflict remains in this region of Donbass and that the residents of this region can now go about their lives in peace, speaking their own language, enjoying their own traditions and culture and practising their own religion. For those who disbelieve what I write, ask people in Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk how they feel. Remember, the Russians also love their children. Nobody likes neo-Nazi thugs. Everybody likes their freedom to enjoy their culture and this is a birthright.
What was Putin supposed to do? Blame Ukraine for ignoring the Minsk Agreements. Blame its friends for standing by allowing Fascists to murder grandmothers, because these grandmothers were Russian.
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey can be contacted at [email protected]
The Ukrainian military, who left the territory of the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, declared their desire to negotiate