A state of war exists between Russia and Ukraine, Portnikov says

Some of the devastation in the Donbas after product of Putin's military aggression into peaceful Ukraine. (Image: Slavyansk Delovoy)

Some of the devastation in the Donbas after product of Putin's military aggression into peaceful Ukraine. (Image: Slavyansk Delovoy) 

International, More

Edited by: A. N.

It is a measure of the triumph of Kremlin propagandists, the fecklessness of Western leaders and the fears in Kyiv of angering both that, more than two years Russian forces invaded Ukraine, a Ukrainian commentator has been forced again to state the obvious: a state of war exists between Russia and Ukraine.

The Ukrainian media has been having a field day with a speech by Mikhail Aleksandrov, an MGIMO researcher, who said at a meeting of the Russian Institute for Strategic and International Studies that Moscow should attack Ukraine with missiles and transform Ukraine into “a new Syria.” (For his speech, see here.)

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

Now, Ukrainian commentator Vitaly Portnikov has offered a commentary on what that speech means, what it doesn’t, and why Ukrainians view it as an indication of Moscow’s real intentions toward their country.

Ukrainians read it this way because they can see what Moscow is doing despite all Moscow’s declarations that “’we aren’t there,’ that there is a civil conflict [between the Ukrainian authorities and the Donbas] and that to punish Russia which seeks exclusively for stabilization of the situation in a neighboring country is the most obvious cynicism of the West.”

Aleksandrov’s words do not permit an alternative interpretation as to what he would like to see happen in Ukraine: the bombing of Ukrainian cities, rocket attacks, and the advance of “’the Donbas Army’” throughout the country, “cleansing the occupied territory and establishing order.”

Portnikov writes:

“This really is the plan of the Syrian war and this means that Kharkiv, Mariupol, Berdyansk, and Melitopol will look like Aleppo, that out of the destroyed cities of the Ukrainian east will flee hundreds of thousands into nearby regions and countries, that the bodies of people … will rot in the streets, and that only ruins will remain.”

Were that to happen, then next door to Russia would be a pile of ashes, he says, as anyone can conclude having glanced at pictures of Aleppo now or Grozny a decade or two ago.

Of course, Aleksandrov’s speech is not necessarily an indication what Vladimir Putin will do. The Kremlin leader “is carrying out against Ukraine ‘a hybrid war,’ occupying territory with the help of local collaborationists, imitating civic conflict, and using force to destabilize a neighboring country to prevent it from carrying out an independent policy.”

  • A funeral for unidentified soldiers killed in action liberating the Donbas region of Ukraine from the hybrid army of the Russian Federation. The funeral was held in the town of Kushugum, Zaphorizhze oblast, on October 1, 2014.
    A funeral for unidentified soldiers killed in action liberating the Donbas region of Ukraine from the hybrid army of the Russian Federation. The funeral was held in the town of Kushugum, Zaphorizhze oblast, on October 1, 2014.
  • Russian aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine
    Russian aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine
  • Russian aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine
    Russian aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine
  • His former commanders left this Russian soldier's corpse in the Ukrainian soil near Luhansk, at a site of the Russo-Ukrainian war in the Donbas, Ukraine (Image: RadioSvoboda.org)
    His former commanders left this Russian soldier's corpse in the Ukrainian soil near Luhansk, at a site of the Russo-Ukrainian war in the Donbas, Ukraine (Image: RadioSvoboda.org)
  • A victim of the Russian aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine
    A victim of the Russian aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine
  • Although Russia formed a tank army using mercenaries in the Donbas and commanded by Russian military regulars, a big war before the end of the year is unlikely. (Image: RIAN)
    Although Russia formed a tank army using mercenaries in the Donbas and commanded by Russian military regulars, a big war before the end of the year is unlikely. (Image: RIAN)
  • Russian mercenaries in the Donbas posing with their weapons. This photograph is from an InformNapalm.org investigation of social profiles of Russian mercenaries and servicemen that discovered more proof of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. In this case, it is Russian R-381T2 'Taran' UHF radio monitoring and ‘Torn’ radio intelligence complexes (boxed in red in the background). Image: InformNapalm.org
    Russian mercenaries in the Donbas posing with their weapons. This photograph is from an InformNapalm.org investigation of social profiles of Russian mercenaries and servicemen that discovered more proof of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. In this case, it is Russian R-381T2 'Taran' UHF radio monitoring and ‘Torn’ radio intelligence complexes (boxed in red in the background). Image: InformNapalm.org
  • Donbas mercenary
  • Ruins of Iversky Monastery after shelling near Donetsk International Airport. The Donbas, Ukraine. 18 May 2015 (Image: Mstyslav Chernov)
    Ruins of Iversky Monastery after shelling near Donetsk International Airport. The Donbas, Ukraine. 18 May 2015 (Image: Mstyslav Chernov)
  • Mercenaries from the 9th Infantry Regiment of Russia's hybrid military force in the Donbas captured in firefight on June 27, 2016 being interrogated by the Ukrainian Security Service. They stated that they were commanded by officers from the regular Russian army and that a mercenary private's monthly pay in their unit is 15000 rubles or about $250 U.S. dollars. (Image: video screen capture)
    Mercenaries from the 9th Infantry Regiment of Russia's hybrid military force in the Donbas captured in firefight on June 27, 2016 being interrogated by the Ukrainian Security Service. They stated that they were commanded by officers from the regular Russian army and that a mercenary private's monthly pay in their unit is 15000 rubles or about $250 U.S. dollars. (Image: video screen capture)
  • Mercenaries fighting for Moscow's hybrid military force in the Donbas come from all over Russia. In the declining economy, mercenary salaries are enticing to many. Some Ukrainians from the occupied territory also join, especially as their civilian jobs disappear following the Russian invasion, while a few mercenaries come from abroad driven by adventurism or false ideals. (Image: video screen capture)
    Mercenaries fighting for Moscow's hybrid military force in the Donbas come from all over Russia. In the declining economy, mercenary salaries are enticing to many. Some Ukrainians from the occupied territory also join, especially as their civilian jobs disappear following the Russian invasion, while a few mercenaries come from abroad driven by adventurism or false ideals. (Image: video screen capture)
  • Defeated tank of the Russian hybrid military in the Donbas, Ukraine (Image: znak.com)
    Defeated tank of the Russian hybrid military in the Donbas, Ukraine (Image: znak.com)
  • Devastation in the Donbas, Ukraine brought by the Russian military aggression (Image: znak.com)
    Devastation in the Donbas, Ukraine brought by the Russian military aggression (Image: znak.com)
  • For Putin, Donbas destroyed as a result of his military invasion and occupation is only a mechanism to exert pressure on Ukraine. (Image: UNIAN)
    For Putin, Donbas destroyed as a result of his military invasion and occupation is only a mechanism to exert pressure on Ukraine. (Image: UNIAN)
  • Russia is trying to freeze the war in the Donbas and make it into a second depressive Transdniestria. (Image: UNIAN)
    Russia is trying to freeze the war in the Donbas and make it into a second depressive Transdniestria. (Image: UNIAN)
  • Avdiyivka ruins, Donbas
    Avdiyivka ruins, Donbas
  • Russian occupation force entering a captured town in the Donbas, Ukraine in April 2014 (Image: kommersant.ru)
    Russian occupation force entering a captured town in the Donbas, Ukraine in April 2014 (Image: kommersant.ru)
  • Russia's 5th Tank Brigade in Donbas (InformNapalm)
  • A tank of the Russian occupation force in the Ukrainian Donbas got stuck in a trench (Image: kommersant.ru)
    A tank of the Russian occupation force in the Ukrainian Donbas got stuck in a trench (Image: kommersant.ru)
  • Devastation of Russian military aggression in the Donbas. Makeyevka, Ukraine. (Image: Ilya Filimonov, Segodnya.ua)
    Devastation of Russian military aggression in the Donbas. Makeyevka, Ukraine. (Image: Ilya Filimonov, Segodnya.ua)
  • The Russian-Ukrainian war in the Donbas, Ukraine
    The Russian-Ukrainian war in the Donbas, Ukraine
  • Russian neo-Nazi mercenary Alexey Milchakov photographed next to the corpse of a tortured Ukrainian soldier after an ambush on his vehicle. Donbas, Ukraine (Image: Milchakov's social network page)
    Russian neo-Nazi mercenary Alexey Milchakov photographed next to the corpse of a tortured Ukrainian soldier after an ambush on his vehicle. Donbas, Ukraine (Image: Milchakov's social network page)
  • Russia's military aggression in the Donbas devastated and empoverished Ukrainian territories under the Russian occupation (Image: Novosti Segodnia)
    Russia's military aggression in the Donbas devastated and empoverished Ukrainian territories under the Russian occupation (Image: Novosti Segodnia)
  • Some of the devastation in the Donbas after product of Putin's military aggression into peaceful Ukraine. (Image: Slavyansk Delovoy)
    Some of the devastation in the Donbas after product of Putin's military aggression into peaceful Ukraine. (Image: Slavyansk Delovoy)
  • Russian mercenaries in Donbas
    Russian mercenaries in Donbas
  • The Russian Federation have been using ethnically non-Russian troops for its aggression in Ukraine. Russian Federation servicemen from Chechnia arriving to fight in the Donbas in 2014 (Image: AFP)
    The Russian Federation have been using ethnically non-Russian troops for its aggression in Ukraine. Russian Federation servicemen from Chechnia arriving to fight in the Donbas in 2014 (Image: AFP)
  • Devastation caused by the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: Tim Judah | NYRblog)
    Devastation caused by the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: Tim Judah | NYRblog)
  • Devastation caused by the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: Tim Judah | NYRblog)
    Devastation caused by the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: Tim Judah | NYRblog)
  • Devastation at Donetsk airport after the military aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)
    Devastation at Donetsk airport after the military aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)
  • Russian mercenary at the devasted Donetsk airport in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)
    Russian mercenary at the devasted Donetsk airport in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)
  • Russian occupation soldier at the devastated Donetsk airport in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)
    Russian occupation soldier at the devastated Donetsk airport in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: LB.ua)
  • Devastation caused by Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (village of Peski) (Image: http://maxrokotansky.livejournal.com)
    Devastation caused by Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (village of Peski) (Image: http://maxrokotansky.livejournal.com)
  • Devastation caused by Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (village of Peski) (Image: http://maxrokotansky.livejournal.com)
    Devastation caused by Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (village of Peski) (Image: http://maxrokotansky.livejournal.com)
  • Devastation caused by Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (village of Peski) (Image: http://maxrokotansky.livejournal.com)
    Devastation caused by Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (village of Peski) (Image: http://maxrokotansky.livejournal.com)
  • One of the groups of Russian special forces and mercenaries that started the Russian invasion in Donbas, Ukraine
    One of the groups of Russian special forces and mercenaries that started the Russian invasion in Donbas, Ukraine
  • Russian pseudo-Cossack mercenaries in Donbas, Ukraine posing with their weapons during the Russian military invasion of Ukraine in 2014 (Image: nr2.com.ua)
    Russian pseudo-Cossack mercenaries in Donbas, Ukraine posing with their weapons during the Russian military invasion of Ukraine in 2014 (Image: nr2.com.ua)
  • Russian mercenaries in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: uainfo.org)
    Russian mercenaries in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: uainfo.org)
  • A house in Donbas destroyed by Russian artillery fire (Image: YouTube screengrab)
    A house in Donbas destroyed by Russian artillery fire (Image: YouTube screengrab)
  • An armored personnel carrier with Russian "hybrid" military in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: inforesist.org)
    An armored personnel carrier with Russian "hybrid" military in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: inforesist.org)
  • Russian mercenaries from Chechnya in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: inforesist.org)
    Russian mercenaries from Chechnya region in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: inforesist.org)
  • Russian mercenaries in Ukraine
    Russian mercenaries in Donbas, Ukraine
  • Devastation from the Russian invasion in Donbas, Ukraine
    Devastation from the Russian invasion in Donbas, Ukraine
  • Devastation from the Russian invasion in Donbas, Ukraine (village of Troitske)
    Devastation from the Russian invasion in Donbas, Ukraine (village of Troitske)
  • Devastation from the Russian invasion in Donbas, Ukraine (village of Troitske)
    Devastation from the Russian invasion in Donbas, Ukraine (village of Troitske)
  • Russo-Ukrainian war in the Donbas, Ukraine
    Russo-Ukrainian war in the Donbas, Ukraine, tanks
  • Russo-Ukrainian war in the Donbas, Ukraine
    Russo-Ukrainian war in the Donbas, Ukraine, tank fire
  • A Russian soldier from Buryatia fighting in Donbas
    A Russian soldier from Buryatia fighting in Donbas
  • Some of the devastation in the Donbas caused by the Russian military aggression: ruins of the Donetsk airport.
    Some of the devastation in the Donbas caused by the Russian military aggression: ruins of the Donetsk airport.
  • Devastation from the Russian invasion in Donbas, Ukraine
    Devastation from the Russian invasion in Donbas, Ukraine
  • War in Donbas, cannon
  • War in Donbas
  • War in Donbas
  • War in Donbas
  • War in Donbas
  • War in Donbas
  • War in Donbas
  • War in Donbas
  • A destroyed tank in the Donbas, Ukraine
    A destroyed tank in the Donbas, Ukraine
  • Russian mercenary fighting in Donbas, Ukraine
    Russian mercenary fighting in Donbas, Ukraine
  • Russian terrorists are deliberately destroying the infrastructure of the Donbas. Destroyed railway bridge over the road Sloviansk-Donetsk-Mariupol
    Russian terrorists are deliberately destroying the infrastructure of the Donbas. Destroyed railway bridge over the road Sloviansk-Donetsk-Mariupol
  • Civilian victims of the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Source: https://www.facebook.com/freedonbas)
    Civilian victims of the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Source: https://www.facebook.com/freedonbas)
  • Civilian victims of the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Source: https://www.facebook.com/freedonbas)
    Civilian victims of the Russian aggression in Donbas, Ukraine (Source: https://www.facebook.com/freedonbas)
  • Pro-Russian Protesters Declare Federal Republic of Donbass
  • donbas battalion
  • A Russian mercenary from St. Petersburg in Donbas
    A Russian mercenary from St. Petersburg in Donbas
  • Russian mercenaries in Donbas, Ukraine
    Russian mercenaries in Donbas, Ukraine
  • Russian mercenaries in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: Ukrinform)
    Russian mercenaries in Donbas, Ukraine (Image: Ukrinform)
  • A Russian mercenary in Donbas, Ukraine
    A Russian mercenary in Donbas, Ukraine
  • Ukrainian soldiers with a national flag singing the anthem (Image: AFP 2016)
    Ukrainian soldiers, Ukrainian military, Ukrainian troops, Ukrainian flag, national flag (Image: AFP)
  • One of the commanders Russian occupation forces in Ukraine, Major General Valerii Hryhorovych Asapov (Russian: Валерий Григорьевич Асапов), photographed while still being in the rank of a Colonel of AF RF, received an award from Vladimir Putin. (Source: gur.mil.gov.ua)
    One of the commanders Russian occupation forces in Ukraine, Major General Valerii Hryhorovych Asapov (Russian: Валерий Григорьевич Асапов), photographed while still being in the rank of a Colonel of AF RF, received an award from Vladimir Putin. (Source: gur.mil.gov.ua)
  • Families with children in a bomb shelter in Donetsk hiding from artillery shelling as result of the Russian military aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine (Image: A. Umanets / Segodnya.ua)
    Families with children in a bomb shelter in Donetsk hiding from artillery shelling as result of the Russian military aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine (Image: A. Umanets / Segodnya.ua)
  • Graves in the Iver Cemetery in Donetsk near the airport destroyed by artillery fire as a result of the Russian military aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine. December 2014 (Image: social media)
    Graves in the Iver Cemetery in Donetsk near the airport destroyed by artillery fire as a result of the Russian military aggression in the Donbas, Ukraine. December 2014 (Image: social media)
  • Russian military troops (Image: nr2.com.ua)
    Russian military troops (Image: nr2.com.ua)
  • Russian forces (R) armed with assault rifles with bayonets escort a column of Ukrainian prisoners of war during a military parade across central Donetsk on August 24, 2014. Parading POWs this way is a violation of the Geneva Convention. (Image: Maxim Shemetov, REUTERS)
    Russian forces (R) armed with assault rifles with bayonets escort a column of Ukrainian prisoners of war during a military parade across central Donetsk on August 24, 2014. Parading POWs this way is a violation of the Geneva Convention. (Image: Maxim Shemetov, REUTERS)
  • Ukrainian military
  • Lithuania Ukraine
  • The last phase of Putin's hybrid war: Russian special services soldiers (aka "little green men")
    The last phase of Putin's hybrid war: Russian special services soldiers (aka "little green men")
  • Soldiers of the Ukrainian National Guard (Image: censor.net.ua)
    Soldiers of the Ukrainian National Guard (Image: censor.net.ua)
  • Soldiers of Ukraine's 79th Airmobile Brigade (Image: twitter.com/poroshenko)
  • Ukraine_Soldiers_Heroes.warmuseum
  • Ukrainian soldier
  • A Russian annexation force soldier on guard duty next to the captured Supreme Rada of Crimea in Simferopol in February 2014. Next to him a hand-made sign saying "Crimea, Russia." (Image: kommersant.ru)
    A Russian annexation force soldier on guard duty next to the captured Supreme Rada of Crimea in Simferopol in February 2014. Next to him a hand-made sign saying "Crimea, Russia." (Image: kommersant.ru)
  • The grave of a Russian special operations soldier who died fighting in Ukraine (Image: RBC.ua)
  • Sasha Tank soldier 2
  • A soldier of the Russian occupation force atop an IFV in Crimea. (Image: epa.eu)
    A soldier of the Russian occupation force atop an IFV in Crimea. (Image: epa.eu)
  • Ukrainian battle flag
  • Ukrainian flag after the Russian attack on the positions of the Ukrainian troops in the town of Maryinka. June 5, 2015. (Image: Reuters)
    Ukrainian flag after the Russian attack on the positions of the Ukrainian troops in the town of Maryinka. June 5, 2015. (Image: Reuters)

“This too is a horrific war,” the commentator writes. “It has already cost Ukrainians and Russians thousands of lives. And it is the worst conflict “between the two peoples” involved “since the times of clashes between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the satellites of the Mongol Golden Horde.”

But “this is not a war for Aleppo. What is taking place in Syria is a hundred times worse and more ruthless. ‘Hybrid war’ and outright genocide are different kinds of wars.” However, they are both wars and it is important that they both be recognized as such, because even if Putin never listens to Aleksandrov, there is “a state of war” now between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukrainians understand this. They view Russia “as an aggressor which at any moment can violate the peaceful course of their lives. And yes, by bombing Ukrainian cities Kharkiv, Odessa or Kyiv, if that is required.

In the Ukrainian consciousness, Russia is the country which is carrying out a war; and thus they ask “Why are we calling a war with Russia an anti-terrorist operation?”

For many Ukrainians, all Aleksandrov has done is to pronounce the words which they have feared since the moment Putin’s “’polite little green men’” appeared in Crimea, words that for them mean “horribly and simply: We will destroy and enslave you. You will work for us,” words that are more understandable and “honest” than all the blather about “’the Russian world.’”


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Edited by: A. N.

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