Article by: Thomas Theiner, www.twitter.com/noclador
The war Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin wages against Ukraine becoming a free, democratic and prosperous nation began over a year ago. The day when it actually started isn’t publicly known, as Putin and his envoys began the war by privately threatening then Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych with economic war if he were to sign the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement and thus move Ukraine irreversibly away from Russia’s imperial control.
But the day when the war truly began is known to all: on 14 August 2013, after failing to sway Yanukovych, Putin opened hostilities by ordering the Russian Custom Service to stop all goods coming from Ukraine at the border. Since then, Putin has steadily increased the stakes and killed more and more people in his bid to blackmail Ukrainians into surrendering freedom, democracy, their language and history, their culture and nation and instead return to be a colony of his neo-imperialist Muscovy regime.
This isn’t Ukraine’s first attempt to decisively break free from Muscovy’s imperial grip: just like Poland, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, Ukraine had fought a War of Independence against Russia almost a century ago right after World War I. Unlike the others, Ukraine did not manage to gain its freedom and thus had to spend another 70 years under Russia’s bloody occupation and subjugation. An occupation that cost at least 8 million Ukrainians their lives.
Only by 1991, with its economy in shambles, was Muscovy forced to release its colonies from its brutal grip. For the first time in centuries, Ukraine was free, as were 20 more nations that Muscovy over time had occupied and annexed, subjugated and plundered, tried to destroy and extinguish. Yet today, with its economy somewhat recovered, Muscovy tries to regain its colonies. Originally, Putin proposed to nations formerly under Soviet occupation to join Russia in a Customs Union, requiring them to merely transfer most of their sovereignty to Moscow for nothing in return.
Even Ukraine’s corrupt Yanukovych wasn’t enticed by Putin’s Custom Union with its transfer of power to Moscow and loss of sovereignty. Thus Putin began his war against Ukraine: initially only an economic war to prevent Russia’s most viable former colony from moving closer to Europe, but by now a war against the Ukrainian people as a whole and Ukrainian nation in its entirety.
Let us count the many crimes committed by Vladimir Vladimirovich against Ukraine:
Putin increased the economic pressure on Ukraine until industrial production began to fall by 5% per month and exports by 10%. This violated the World Trade Organization rules, this violated the Budapest Agreement, this violated the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation and over a dozen other treaties Russia had signed. Under the massive economic strain the Ukrainian government, whose members had stolen billions and billions from the state budget, had no choice but to surrender to Putin and postpone the signing of the Association Agreement. Putin then offered Yanukovych cheap gas and a $15 billion loan if Yanukovych agreed to join the Customs Union, give Russia control over Ukraine’s strategic industries, allow Russian control over the Ukrainian military, and subjugate Ukrainian legislation to Moscow.
But the Ukrainian people rose up against this betrayal of their nation, their freedom, and their choice to be a European nation. Putin’s Russia, with its corruption, brutality, decay, poverty, repression, fake elections, and limited freedoms of expression, choice, and individualism, does not hold any attraction to people who know it up close. And Ukrainians do know it up close, as they speak Russian, watch Russian TV, and know Russians.
Putin, who as a former KGB-officer does not believe people are capable of (and should not be allowed) individual choices, saw the blossoming Euromaidan protests in Kyiv as a Western-organized, financed, and steered counter-revolution, against his “success” in using dirty tricks, force, and bribes to shove Ukraine under his control. Believing that people cannot form a movement on their own without the guiding hand and control of an intelligence agency, Putin saw the Euromaidan as an insult and betrayal against him by Western nations.
Putin decided that Yanukovych had to drown Euromaidan in a sea of blood, to teach its imagined Western organizers a lesson and to burn all of Yanukovych’s bridges with the West. But unlike Putin, who will undoubtedly drown Moscow in a sea of blood if Russians will finally rise up against him, Yanukovych didn’t have the stomach for violence. Even though Putin demanded military action against the people on Maidan, Yanukovych wavered, even more so, as he wasn’t sure about the loyalty of the Ukrainian Army.
Seeing that Yanukovych lacked the brutality that only a KGB education can instil in a person, Putin sent Russian paratroopers to Kyiv, who, dressed in Ukrainian police uniforms, killed dozens of demonstrators on Maidan in Kyiv. Unluckily for Putin, his paratroopers documented their stay in Kyiv with photos they posted to their social network profiles, which allowed Ukrainian victims to identify their torturers. But such embarrassing revelations didn’t bother Putin, who awarded the paratroopers medals for their bloody service in Kyiv.
But Yanukovych fled Kyiv when it became clear that the Ukrainian people wouldn’t accept the deal Putin’s lackey Frank-Walter Steinmeier had forced upon the Ukrainian opposition. The deal would have left Yanukovych in power until the end of 2014, and was signed while Russian and Crimean snipers shot over sixty people 200m from the room where Steinmeier called the deal “ideal”.
With Yanukovych having fled and Ukraine’s course westward now unstoppable, Putin ordered his Armed Forces to seize Crimea under the pretext of ethnic unrest. But there was no ethnic unrest in Crimea. There was not even the risk of unrest in Crimea. The first unrest in Crimea was when Russian Special Forces occupied the Crimean parliament, where the next day in a secret session, attended by just a few people, who to this day are unknown, a local mobster was named as the new prime minister of Crimea.
Quickly Russia’s Armed Forces began to occupy the entire peninsula, with its troops playing: “concerned local citizens, who bought guns, tanks, attack helicopters and cruiser in a shop.” At the same time, hired goons from Russia were used to rough up and in two cases kill pro-Ukraine activists. Putin then had his propaganda troupe stage the play “referendum,” the results of which were exposed as fake by Putin’s own human rights council.
The West threatened Russia with severe sanctions if Putin would go ahead with the referendum, but Putin had learned from the EU’s and US’ behaviour during Euromaidan that they both are not to be feared, and so just annexed the peninsula and ordered the leaders of the indigenous Tatar population to be expelled.
Inspired by the weak response from the West and the non-response by Ukraine, Putin decided that he wanted to take a bit more of Ukraine – namely half of it! Massive propaganda on Russian TV claimed that in Kyiv Bandera-loving Nazis were in power, who were planning to exterminate the Russian speaking population of Southern and Eastern Ukraine. Everyone in Kyiv supporting a free, democratic and united Ukraine was suddenly a “Nazi” or “Banderite” on Russian TV, so much so that being called “Banderite” has become an honorific title in Ukraine, which one carries with pride.
Russian TV called on the people of Eastern and Southern Ukraine to come out in a “mass-movement” to demand annexation by Russia in order to prevent genocide against Russians in Ukraine. Yet except for the occupation of two buildings, all of Ukraine remained peaceful and calm as there was never any persecution of Russians or the Russian language in Ukraine.
As Putin’s propaganda failed to create a mass movement in Southern and Eastern Ukraine, Russia’s intelligence agencies began to send each weekend thousands of paid Russian demonstrators to Eastern Ukraine to play “concerned local citizens, who demand annexation by Russia”.
Not even this got Putin the mass-movement he desired, and when Ukraine closed its border to Russians on the weekends such demonstrations completely ceased. Having failed to inspire Russian-speaking Ukrainians to come out in significant numbers to do his bidding, Putin changed tack and sent around 100 armed mercenaries under the command of Russian military intelligence colonel Girkin to occupy the city of Sloviansk on 12 April, 2014. Girkin and his men played “concerned local citizens, who bought guns, anti-tank missiles, mines and mortars in a shop” and demanded annexation by Russia.
Yet even at this point very few real locals wished to join Putin’s movement and so Putin sent more and more mercenaries, fascist volunteers and Russian soldiers on “on holidays” to Eastern Ukraine, while Girkin enacted a terror regime in his area which saw local pro-Ukrainian politicians quickly turning up naked, tortured and dead in lakes.
But Putin’s plan that by dismantling police, killing and expelling pro-Ukraine persons from the region and paying huge sums to volunteers for his militias, he could engineer an armed uprising, did not come to pass. Therefore Putin hired all rabble and scum he could find in Russia, armed it and sent it to Ukraine to play “concerned local citizens.” But even thousands of armed Russians, massive small arms deliveries, and ample financial support by the Russian intelligence services did not lead to the mass uprising Putin needed in all of Southern and Eastern Ukraine for his army to intervene and him to annex the region.
So Putin had his propaganda troupe once more stage the play “referendum” in some areas his mercenaries occupied, but this time with even more risible results and laughable turnout. At the same time the rest of Ukraine, the one at peace and ruled according to Russia by “Nazis”, participated in overwhelming numbers in the election of a new president, in which Russia’s two “genocidal Nazi” bogeymen Svoboda leader Tyahnybok and Right Sector leader Yarosh didn’t even garner 1.9% of the vote, thus disproving Russia’s claim of Ukraine as a hotbed of Nazis. Undaunted in its lies Putin’s propaganda simply began to call Ukraine’s freshly elected president Petro Poroshenko, whose mother tongue is Russian and wife Jewish, “leader of the Kyiv Nazi junta.”
Angered by the Ukrainians show of democracy in electing a new president, Putin ordered his proxy army in Ukraine, which by now was led by two Russian intelligence colonels, and headed by a Russian intelligence major general to attack and kill Ukrainian soldiers, hoping the resulting strife would destroy as much as possible and thus finally convince at least some people of Russia’s claim of impending genocide in Eastern Ukraine.
Soon Ukraine began to lose dozens of troops to Putin’s forces, who suddenly had tanks, heavy artillery, multiple rocket launchers and infantry fighting vehicles, which supposedly were all spoils of war from the Ukrainian Army; including equipment like T-72B3 tanks, which the Ukrainian Army did never own. At the same time Putin exacerbated the economic warfare against Ukraine and cut gas deliveries, blocked Ukrainian imports to Russia, and began to expropriate Ukrainian business in Russia.
With Ukrainian servicemen being killed in large numbers, President Poroshenko ordered the Ukrainian Armed Forces to attack and defeat Putin’s mercenary occupation forces. Quickly the Ukrainian Army with the help of incessant air strikes by the Ukrainian Air Force began to push the Russians along the entire front back. Putin realized that his mercenaries would be defeated if he did not provide them with even heavier arms. As the Ukrainian Air Force was pummelling his mercenaries and made supplying heavy equipment to the front-line impossible, Putin sent Russian army air-defence systems manned with Russian soldiers to Ukraine. Systems that require at least 6 months of training and which were designed for World War III.
Within days on July 17, one of these systems shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Eastern Ukraine killing 298 people. Even in the face of such an atrocity the EU failed to enact proper sanctions against Putin, who after a moment of hesitation didn’t back down but sent his proxies even more air-defence systems, artillery, tanks, armoured vehicles, and thousands of mercenaries, nationalists and adventures. Yet all that wasn’t enough to stop the Ukrainian Army from driving Putin’s mercenaries back each day. So Putin ordered the Russian army’s artillery to shell Ukrainian positions each night.
These nightly artillery shelling went on for weeks and has been proven by videos and reports but did not elicit any reactions from the EU or US. Yet even with the massive help of Russia’s artillery, Russia’s air-defence, at least 15,000 mercenaries, massive amounts of weapons and arms the Eastern Ukrainian population did not support Putin’s plan of an uprising, and either fled the fighting or took shelter in their cellars, while the Ukrainian Army steadily advanced and liberated town after town, where the people quickly came out in masses to protest against Russia’s war and to reaffirm that wish to be part of Ukraine.
Soon Ukraine’s Army prepared to storm the two main strongholds of Putin’s proxies: Luhansk and Donetsk, but Putin at this point made it unmistakably clear that he will never allow his proxies in Ukraine to be defeated and that he doesn’t care about peace, diplomacy, or the West’s opinion. Putin sent regular Russian army units to Ukraine to fight the Ukrainian Army.
Holding to Russia’s tradition of lying, Russia claimed these troops were on “holiday” in Ukraine… holidays in a war-zone, in battalion strength, in uniform, with the entire equipment and material of the battalion, and reinforced by company-sized logistic units on holiday too. Faced with superior forces in number, equipment, and technology the Ukrainian Army was driven back. Putin even opened up a new front by invading Ukraine 100 km south from the area where fighting had been raging, which led to Ukraine’s president Poroshenko agreeing to a ceasefire to allow the Ukrainian Army to retreat away from Russia’s superior artillery.
Having shown the world that he will never allow Ukraine to beat the mercenaries and criminals he armed and sent to wage war in Ukraine, Putin threatened Ukraine with renewed fighting if Ukraine wouldn’t agree to a “special status” to the areas occupied by his troops so far. As soon as Ukraine agreed to grant such a special status, Russian forces renewed the attacks on Ukrainian troops by shelling key areas with artillery barrages not seen in Europe since the Battle of Berlin.
But Putin is not done yet: a year ago Putin believed he could take control of all of Ukraine. By winter he hoped to take control of the Central, Northern, Southern and Eastern regions of Ukraine. By spring he had taken Crimea and hoped to take all of Southern and Eastern Ukraine… by the end of summer, Putin controls two small areas of the two Easternmost Ukrainian regions; areas which are devastated, destroyed, depopulated and choke full with armed criminals from Russia. Any further military advance would see more and much stiffer resistance by the Ukrainian people desperate to survive the oncoming Russian genocide and ethnic cleansing Putin’s satraps in Eastern Ukraine demand, propagate and wish to enact. By now Putin understands he cannot win this war military, but he also has seen that by threatening to keep flaming it he can blackmail Ukraine into doing his bidding. Therefore his dream to subjugate all of Ukraine is now back in his mind. Therefore he will use massive economic warfare, gas war, outrageous threats, brutal blackmail and lavish bribes, in the hope to cajole Ukraine’s elite to sell out the nation. The only question is at what point Ukraine will refuse to be further bullied and Putin will restart the war.
Make no mistake: this isn’t over. This is just the end of the beginning of the start of the opening act. Ukrainians will suffer, Ukrainians will die, but one day Ukrainians will be free. Free as other nations, who rose to fight for their freedom, for their nation, for their future. But just like France in Algeria, Serbia in Croatia, Russia in Poland, Russia in Estonia, Russia in Finland, Russia in Latvia, Russia in Georgia, Russia in Lithuania, Russia in Azerbaijan, Russia in Chechnya and now Russia for a fourth time in a century in Ukraine (after 1917-1920, 1932-1933 and 1943-1953) will resort to the worst to keep Ukrainians enslaved. And if in cold and dark days ahead Ukrainians near despair they should remember the words of Winston Churchill, which ring true even today in the face Putin’s aggression: “You have committed every crime under the sun. Where you have been the least resisted there you have been the most brutal. We will have no truce or parley with you, or the grisly gang who work your wicked will. You do your worst and we will do our best. We shall never turn from our purpose, however sombre the road, however grievous the cost, because we know that out of this time of trial and tribulation will be born a new freedom and glory for all mankind.”