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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightArticlechevron_rightWhat is going to...

What is going to happen in Ukraine in 2022?

What is going to happen in Ukraine in 2022?

Russia has been massing its forces on Ukraine's eastern frontier for weeks. Putin risibly claims that this military build-up is not a threat to anyone. In the next breath, he says that unless NATO gives a legally binding promise never to admit Ukraine, then there will be a "military-technical response". For weeks Putin and his acolytes have been saying that Ukraine is not a proper country and that Russians and Ukrainians are one people. If they are one people, why do Russians keep making unprovoked attacks on Ukraine?

In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and illegally occupied Luhansk, Donbas and Crimea. In maps issued to schools by the Russian Education Department prior to 2014, Crimea was shown as part of Ukraine.

In 2014, the Kremlin lied and lied and lied about its invasion of Crimea. Russian-speaking men in Russian Army uniforms with Russian Army issued weapons arrived from Russia, but Moscow said these men were not Russian. After an infinitude of blatant lies, the Kremlin then boasted that: these men were Russian soldiers! Moscow is unique in its level of shameless mendacity.

To this day, even Moscow recognises Luhansk and Donbas as part of Ukraine. Thousands of Russian soldiers are there fighting against the Ukrainian Army. Moscow persists in blatant lies and says that none of its soldiers is in Luhansk and Donbas despite a mountain of irrefragable evidence to the contrary. The Union of Russian Soldiers' Mothers has often published tributes to soldiers killed fighting there. In a court case in Rostov-on-Don in 2021, it came out that food is supplied to Russian Army units in Luhansk and Donbas. Russia says that some Russian volunteers are in east Ukraine but have no soldiers. This is an imbecilic lie. Yet the Kremlin persists in the stinking lie that the Ukrainian Conflict is solely internal.

There are people in Ukraine who identify as Russian. Some of them are pro-Moscow rebels. Where have they got their weapons from? Moscow says these are leftovers from the Soviet era. Military-grade weapons were not just left lying around. Many of the weapons used by pro-Russian insurgents are of post- 1991 manufacture. Even for the pre-1991 weapons: they would have run out of ammo since the conflict started. Russia has resupplied them.

Kyiv is the cradle of Russian civilisation. There was little concept of Ukraine until 600 years ago when the Poles conquered Ukraine. The language of Ukraine acquired Polish accretions and became a separate language from Russian. The Russian Empire eventually retook Ukraine. Many Russians to this day do not accept Ukrainian nationality and contemn the Ukrainian language as bas….. Russian. In Russian 'Ukraine' means 'at the edge.'

In the 1930s, the Soviet Government severely discouraged the Ukrainian language. A Ukrainian accused of being a nationalist was sent by cattle truck to a slave labour camp. Few survived the brutal regime in such camps. Blind minstrels were living repositories of Ukrainian lore. The Soviet regime tortured and murdered hundreds of these bards. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was almost wiped out with nearly all its priests executed or sent to labour camps and all its buildings seized. In fairness, the USSR also did this to Russians and other ethnic groups.

The Holodmor was the famine in Ukraine deliberately created by the Soviet Government. It was unique in that food production was increasing as at least 3,000,000 were starved to death. Moscow denied there was a famine, refused offers of free food from abroad and would not let Ukrainians leave in search of nourishment. Again, the USSR starved many Russians and others to death, too. We know all this from Soviet archives opened in 1981.

In Ukraine, it is unclear who is Russian and who is Ukrainian. Many Russians moved into eastern Ukraine and Crimea in the 20th century. Many Ukrainians spoke Russian exclusively. Plenty of people is of mixed blood. In the USSR, it did not matter much where the border between Ukraine and Russia was.

In 1991 the USSR dissolved. The Russian Government now suggests that this was illegal. That is hilarious coming from a government that massively violates its own laws every single day as well as international law.

Ukraine bent over backwards to accommodate Russia. It allowed the Russian Black Sea Fleet to stay in Crimea. Kyiv gave the Russian language co-official status. Ukraine gave its nuclear weapons to Russia for free in return for security guarantees.

Putin loathes Ukraine's policies. I can see why. Ukraine has free and fair elections that governments sometimes lose. Ukraine has free media and an independent judiciary. All this is inimical to Putin's tyrannical mentality. He is frightened that Russians might demand the same rights as Ukrainians have.

Russia disliking Ukraine's domestic policies is no justificatory argument for invasion. Russia fiercely guards its own independence. He labels any Russian human rights organisation ''a foreign agent.''

There is an arguable case for Crimea and east Ukraine being ceded to Russia. But this is an issue for the UN. Russia has treated the UN as totally irrelevant. Conversely, all separatist movements are outlawed in Russia. Russia holds political prisoners by the hundred. To suggest seceding by exclusively peaceful and democratic means is a crime that carries a sentence of 8 years in Russia. Risibly, the Russian Constitution expressly prohibits censorship.

After the Russian occupation of Crimea, a referendum was held there. 90% of people voted to re-join Russia. But Russia never allows a fair vote. Even if the vote had been held on a fair basis, the pro-Russian caucus would probably have won but not by that much. However, just because most people want a territory to belong to a certain sovereign state does not automatically mean that they get their way.

The Tatar Muslim minority in Crimea is much put upon. They do not much like being part of Putin's Russia. Russian nationalism has often been catastrophic for Tatars. In 1944, all Tatars in Ukraine were deported by cattle trucks and many died en route. They were not allowed home for 40 years.

Tatars in Crimea are often accused of being 'Islamist extremists', even when they are secular. The legal catch-all of 'extremism' carries a long prison sentence.

Moscow wants concessions and offers none in return. If Putin gets nothing from these talks with the US on 10 January, he will look foolish and feeble. Russian media (virtually all state-owned) has been beating the war drums.

Russia has already been in an undeclared war with Ukraine for 8 years. I guess he will intensify it in January 2022. His aim is not to take the whole of Ukraine but up to half of it. He would like a regime in Kyiv over which he exerts much control.

NATO has funded and armed Ukraine. But the arms shipments are not huge. The Ukrainians are much better armed, equipped and led than in 2014. They can give Russia a bloody nose, but the Ukrainians are outnumbered by 3:1. In the end, Russia will win.

This war is totally avoidable and unnecessary. It is an indisputable example of unprovoked Russian aggression against a democracy. Ukraine has never claimed an inch of Russian soil nor fired a shot inside Russia. Not even Putin accuses Ukraine of that.

Ukrainians fighting to defend their homeland were dismissed as 'fascist' by the Russian State. Only 2% of Ukrainians vote for ultra-nationalist parties. Ultra nationalism is far more prevalent in Russia: chauvinism and militarism are the official ideology indoctrinated into people in school, the media and the army.

This war has caused 13 000 deaths. The war has cost Russian tens of billions of dollars in expenditure and due to Western sanctions. It is clear that Russia is going to keep Crimea for decades.

(The author is a political analyst based in UK)

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