Unmarked Russian troops near Perevelnoye in Crimea in 2014. Photo: AFP
Article by: Alexander Scherba, ambassador of Ukraine to Austria
When people in the West talk about Ukraine, they usually say “probably, the truth lies somewhere in the middle” and “both sides are guilty there.” When I hear this, I can’t remain silent.
After all, it’s not Ukrainian citizens with Ukrainian arms in their hands under Ukrainian flags on Russian soil – it’s just exactly the opposite. What is this if not aggression and war? Blaming Ukraine for Russia’s attack in 2014 is the same as blaming Poland for Germany’s attack in 1939.
The war began with the landing of Putin’s “green men” in the Crimea in February 2014. At the insistence of the West, Ukraine did not resist. As a result, the so-called “referendum” was held in a few days under the barrel of Russian troops. Even Hitler once took longer to annex Austria.
Blaming Ukraine for Russia’s attack in 2014 is the same as blaming Poland of Germany’s attack in 1939.
For over three months – from February to May – we begged Russia for peace, watching as our first blood was spilled (Reshat Ametov in Crimea, Volodymyr Rybak in Horlivka and many others). Only in June did the active phase of the so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation begin. Only after 3 months did Ukraine start to defend herself.
Earlier, dozens were dying every day. Today – only single people. Nevertheless, the war continues. After all, the Russian government is not aiming for Donbas. It aims to control all of Ukraine as its zone of influence. That Ukraine will never tolerate, and never accept.
Therefore, Putin presented the world his new plan: reintegrating destroyed Donbas as a part of Ukraine – as a Russian springboard, and on Russian conditions. That is, with authorities that were implanted by Russia, and with a virtually non-existent Ukrainian-Russian border.
We, Ukrainians, will not agree to this. We need fair elections with the participation of Ukrainian representatives. We need control over our own borders. We need to return the 1.5 million refugees who had to leave their native Donbas – not least because of the pro-Ukrainian position – back home.
If this really happens, the Donbas will receive the special status which is so fervently discussed in Russia and which adopted by Parliament in first reading in the autumn of 2014. This status will give Donbas wide powers regarding language, trade relations and the distribution of tax payments.
But we will not succumb to Russian pressure and turn Donbas into a formation which is Ukrainian de jure but de facto under control of Moscow. This will never happen. Too many people have given their lives to now agree to such a creeping surrender.
Now on sanctions.
If sanctions are acknowledged a mistake and canceled, it means only one thing: the West sees no difference between good and evil, right and wrong.
The sanctions appeared for a reason – they are a response to the unbelievable decisions of Russia. We all, the whole of Europe, are paying the price for these decisions. The West is paying with lost jobs. Ukraine is paying with lost and damaged lives. We feel the pain of the West and appreciate the support. But we hope that we can count on the sympathy and support from the West.