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How to approach the President’s words about the wish to end the war? 

How to approach the President’s words about the wish to end the war? 
Article by: Liudmyla Vannek
Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
“There are no winners or losers in war – in war, there are only survivors. On both sides,” wrote Petro Poroshenko on his Facebook page, in commemoration of the 96th anniversary of the end of World War I. The President’s words that he wants to “stop the war in the country and not allow World War III to break out” drew a lot of attention. Various interpretations of these words emerged: some say that the President practically admitted that what is happening in the East of Ukraine is not an ATO but war, which is why another kind of action is necessary, others claim it is just a manner of speech which means nothing. How to approach such information from the President? Radio Liberty asks politics expert Yevhen Mahda.

I would probably like to remind that today is the day the Armistice at Compiègne was sined in 1918, which many of our compatriots may have forgotten about, though World War I was also very important in Ukraine’s history. A lot of it happened on Ukraine’s territory, and Ukraine suffered significant losses during World War II. And today, so to speak, is the day to commemorate those who died in World War I.

I think that Poroshenko did not use his statement to call the events in the East war directly, but took advantage of the opportunity, on the eve of the G20 summit: he emphasized the fact that lack of effective action not only on his part but also on part of the global community may cause World War III. This topic has sounded in the public speeches of Mr. President himself and other Ukrainian officials, therefore it is not surprising. This thesis demonstrates that official Kyiv aims to regulate the conflict peacefully, and, as they said in Soviet time, “We are peaceful people, but our armored train is on the backup tracks!”

I think it is not defining the events in the East as war as such, but it is the wish to prevent further escalation of the situation in the East, especially with such statement, thanks to drawing attention to what is happening in Donbas.

We asked passersby in Kyiv how they viewed this quote and the people say that things should be called by their proper names. And that if this had been called war from the beginning, the deaths could have been avoided. And, in the end, World War I was not called an ATO, it was war… 

Luckily, or unluckily, perhaps, I have a diploma in history and I remember well, at least from textbooks, what the events were on the eve of World War I, not only those that, so to speak, developed in Prague, where you are phoning me from, but that there was diplomatic war. The thing is that thanks to social media and the influence of television, we have many such ‘experts,’ you know, self-declared experts in military matters and international relations.

I do not share the opinion that if we had called the situation not an ATO but war, that everything would be all right and we would be already celebrating on the Red Square and winning. No. Unfortunately, we have to be objective and see that Ukraine now has heightened expectations. And this is natural, as our state is going through the biggest stress throughout the years of Independence, and thus the people naturally want for all of this, this horror, to end as soon as possible. But this really demands responsible action from politicians and, as difficult as it may be, understanding on part of the citizens and the ability to dialogue on part of the state government. But definitions, means, they are all, to my mind, not foremost.

The media recently actively criticized some actions on part of some OSCE mission participants in the East of Ukraine, who show an openly Russian position. Some experts say that if war was acknowledged, then there would be no Russians within the mission. Does the President take this into account?

I think that the President accounts for other things as well. For example, the fact that if Ukraine declared as state of war, it would have to acknowledge the ‘LNR’ and ‘DNR’ as an opposing side. Right? We cannot fight against an empty field? On the one hand. Or determine Russia as our enemy. Russia is a nuclear state. At the moment Ukraine’s military potential is unlikely to withstand Russia in case war is declared officially. I am definitely unsure that the western countries who support Ukraine politically in every war possible would support declaring war. What is more, I am convinced that the countries of the West contain Ukraine in terms of activity. Because they would not want some types of activity and, accordingly, they would not want to bring about World War III. This is Poroshenko’s signal regarding war prevention – a signal to the West that containment is not enough, more action is needed in terms of assistance, and I think that on the eve of the G20 summit and during the Asian–Pacific region sum, this message is very important.

Translated by: Mariya Shcherbinina
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