Can Vladimir Putin stop shooting and killing Ukrainians? Of course he can. He doesn’t need any agreements with anybody – not with Zelensky, not with Poroshenko, not even with Merkel. He simply has to want to do it.
Presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelensky has said that the cessation of shelling along the so-called line of demarcation would be one of his main objectives as Ukraine’s head of state. The desire to stop the shelling and to save the lives of fellow citizens is a laudable goal. But it is not up to us to stop the shooting. It is up to Putin.
I’d like to point out a few simple truths to Volodymyr Zelensky, which he must know even without me. It was not the 2014 Ukraine that attacked Russia, but Russia that attacked Ukraine. It was not Ukraine that sent saboteurs to Russia, but Russia that sent them to Ukraine. There are no Ukrainian troops on Russian soil but Russian troops and Kremlin’s mercenaries are occupying our lands. And, of course, they are continuing to maintain heightened tensions with the Ukrainian army along the entire line of demarcation because without these tensions the occupation of the Donbas would immediately lose all meaning. Can Volodymyr Zelensky come to an agreement with Vladimir Putin to stop this shelling? No, he cannot. Just as Petro Poroshenko cannot. Nor anyone else.
Can Vladimir Putin stop shooting and killing Ukrainians? Of course he can. But to do that he doesn’t need any agreement with anyone — not with Zelensky, not with Poroshenko, not even with Merkel. He simply has to want to do it.
It is obvious that Putin will not want to do so today. The shelling and killing is Moscow’s important contribution to the election campaign in our country because it proves that the current government cannot stop the war even though it had promised to do so. If Zelensky wins, will Putin want to stop the shelling? He probably will, and he will not need to negotiate with Zelensky. Furthermore, I think that the decision on the possible end to the shelling has already been approved. Russians and their hirelings will not shoot – at least not before the parliamentary elections in Ukraine. They will want to demonstrate that the “peace party” in Ukraine has replaced the “war party,” and they will not create obstacles to victory for this collective “peace party” during the parliamentary elections.
The main question is what will come afterwards? What will Zelensky have to sacrifice to keep the shelling from resuming and to avoid being seen by a segment of Ukrainians as a representative of the “war party”? The incorporation of occupied Donbas by Ukraine on Russian terms? The abandonment of Crimea or at least the promise not to mention the annexation of the peninsula? The rejection of European integration? This will be the sacrifice.
And does Volodymyr Zelensky understand — well perhaps not the showman himself but the people around him — that if we do not agree to Putin’s conditions the shelling will not cease at all or else it will inevitably start again and our soldiers will begin to die again? And that if we agree to Putin’s conditions, we can literally find ourselves in Rostov (Russia) – and this is in the best-case scenario.
I understand, of course, that many of my compatriots, including politicians, are simply incapable of thinking that far ahead. But we must learn if we do not want to bring about another crisis in our country and lose more territory instead of returning what has already been torn off.