Ihor Dlaboha

Oct 30, 2020

The Torn Curtain


• Russia’s invasion and occupation of eastern Ukraine have caused a great deal of civilian death and destruction. Not only have residential buildings and churches been targeted by Russian artillery, but intense collateral damage has been experienced by the civilian population. This has only been exacerbated by covid-19.


UN Human Rights Coordinator in Ukraine Osnat Lubrani earlier this month drew attention to the problems of 1.2 million vulnerable residents of Donbas who have been facing a lot of adversity due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.


On International Day of Peace, Lubrani said in a statement: “I want to draw attention to the unnoticed suffering of 1.2 million vulnerable residents of Donbas who cannot get their pension payments, travel in order to take care of sick relatives, or reunite with their loved ones. How will they, those who have almost exhausted their resources, survive the seventh winter of the conflict if there are severe restrictions on movement across the demarcation line? Many of us find it challenging to adapt to the covid-19 pandemic. But its heaviest burden, which is further complicated by the armed conflict, is borne by the most vulnerable people in eastern Ukraine who do not have enough resources to adapt to this new reality.”


• Despite ersatz peace negotiations, Ukrainian armed forces continue to face attacks every day due to Moscow’s deceitful participation in the talks. On September 30, 11 hostile shellings were recorded in Donbas, one Ukrainian serviceman was wounded. Since the beginning of the current day, the enemy has opened fire once, according to the press service of the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) HQ.


“Yesterday, on September 30, 11 violations of the ceasefire by the armed forces of the Russian Federation were observed in the areas of responsibility of Ukrainian brigades,” the statement said.


As the news media reported earlier, according to Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Ruslan Khomchak, “There is a full and comprehensive ceasefire on the demarcation line in Donbas. Its introduction has significantly reduced the enemy’s fire activity, but a possibility of the resumption of local hostilities still remains.”


• Fortunately, due to enhanced intelligence gathering, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine does not consider the threat of large-scale offensive actions by illegal

armed groups in Donbas likely, said Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Serhii Korniychuk.


Korniychuk explained that in order to carry out any offensive operations, the enemy has to form a strike group, deploy artillery at the positions, and create a stockpile of ammunition and fuel. “Today, with the means of intelligence that we have, it is impossible to hide anything like it. Besides that, we have information that the enemy at the frontline is understaffed,” he said, according to


• The Russo-Ukraine War has been waging since 2014, with the invasion and annexation of Crimea and then the invasion of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Much to the chagrin of Moscow and the surprise of the free world, Ukrainian soldiers have been able to hold their own. In many cases, thanks to military support from the United States and others, Ukrainian armed forces are containing the Russian invaders. While materiel support is boosted by allied training, by now Ukrainian soldiers can provide a high level of combat training to their free world counterparts being the only standing army to engage the Russian army in a full-scale war.


• Indeed, there are obvious achievements except for the talking part. Kyiv tends to shoot itself in the foot by making detrimental agreements at the negotiating table or delegating Ukrainian representatives of dubious character. Vitold Fokin comes to mind. A remnant of the old guard that ran Moscow’s office in Ukraine, he and the likes of Leonid Kuchma and others should not be called upon to negotiate on behalf of Ukraine. They should cower in the shadows and count themselves fortunate that Ukraine does not practice lustration.


Fortunately, Fokin was fired. According to the Office of the President of Ukraine, Fokin “deviated from a fair assessment of Russia’s temporary occupation of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.” Apparently he expressed opinions that were not part of official policy. “Representing the state at any level is not a chance for personal views and ambitions, it is an unconditional obligation to implement the position of the state and the interests of Ukrainian people,” the President’s office said.


• With four days left before the US Presidential Elections, the Democratic hopeful Joe Biden made a few heads turn by saying that Russia is America’s greatest threat. Biden said in an interview last Sunday that in terms of countries presenting a threat to the US, Russia tops the list. “Well, I think the biggest threat to America right now in terms of breaking up our – our security and our alliances, is Russia,” the former Vice-President told “60 Minutes” correspondent Norah O’Donnell, according to FoxBusiness. Biden added that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been doing his utmost to spread disinformation about him, DW reported.


We absolutely agree with Biden’s assessment but sadly the entire campaign has been devoid of a discussion about Russian imperialism, aggression and threat.

Moscow, on the other hand, did not take lightly to Biden’s observation. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he regrets that attempts are being made in the US to spread hatred against Russia.


“It’s not right, we strongly disagree with that assertion,” Peskov noted. “We can only regret that hatred against Russia is being spread this way and our country is depicted as an adversary,” Peskov noted.


• For balance and fairness, during the last presidential debate on October 22, President Trump accused the Obama-Biden Administration of not actually helping Ukraine fight Russian aggression. Trump said: “Because there has been nobody tougher on Russia. Between the sanctions, nobody tougher than me on Russia. Between the sanctions between all of what I’ve done with NATO. You know, I’ve got the NATO countries to put up an extra 130 billion, going to $420 billion a year, that’s to guard against Russia. I sold — while he was selling pillows and sheets — I sold tank busters to Ukraine. There has been nobody tougher on Russia than Donald Trump. And I’ll tell you, they were so bad. They took over the, the submarine port. You remember that very well during your term, during you and Barack Obama. They took over a big part of what should have been Ukraine. You handed it to them.”


• Earlier this month, a rhetorical question was raised about Lithuania’s steadfast support for Belarus’ opposition movement. Apparently, Belarus’ dictator Alexander Lukashenko and others have been offended by this so-called foreign intrusion into the internal affairs of a neighboring country. Linas Jegelevicius in EuroNews explained there are historical reasons for such a sign of support. He quoted Petras Austrevicius, a Lithuanian MEP, that the bond between Lithuania and Belarus is linked to both having been under Soviet control. “We are well above the EU average in that (supporting Belarus’ opposition movement),” said Austrevicius. “But our exuberance and involvement do not surprise me, as both Belarus and Lithuania have always been very close – in terms of history, culture and the economy.”


Jegelevicius added that another historical dimension to the Belarus-Lithuania relationship is the link between national movements in both countries around the time of independence from the Soviet Union.


Indeed, the former captive nations of the Russian subjugation have a responsibility for each other. In order to safeguard their nations from Moscow’s aggression, they not only have to be vigilant but also stand up and defend their kindred nations. One noteworthy example of this is former Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s staunch advocacy of Ukraine’s independence.


This kind of mutual defense is the only protection against Russian invasion.


• History Today earlier this month posed an interesting question on its website: Could the Soviet Union Have Survived? Without delving into its replies, the writers believe there is

a difference between the Soviet Union with its capital in Moscow and today’s Russia with its capital in Moscow.


Simply stated, if the USSR had survived or collapsed and given birth to the Russian Federation, everything would remain the same. Moscow would still be spreading war throughout the four corners of the world; it would still seek to re-subjugate Ukraine as it is doing, it would still be subverting free world countries, and it would still be violating the human rights of its citizens.


The simple truth is that Russia and Moscow are one and the same since tsarist times through the Soviet Communist regime until now. That’s the nature of the Russian beast – or bear.


• Russia is not only threatening to re-subjugate the former captive nations, but it has also targeted other nearby countries. And they’re feeling the menace.


Sweden announced it will increase military spending by about 40% in the next five years and double the number of people conscripted into its armed forces as it aims to strengthen its defense amid growing tensions with Russia, the government has said, according to Reuters.


The country, which is not a member of NATO but enjoys close ties with the alliance, ran down its military forces after the cold war to save money. “We have a situation where the Russian side is willing to use military means to achieve political goals,” the Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told reporters on Thursday. “Based on that, we have a new geopolitical security situation to deal with.” He said the new proposals would mean an increase in the military budget of 27.5bn Swedish kronor ($3.10 billion) by 2025.


Our hope for a strong military-political bloc of former captive nations and those feeling the threat today is growing in credibility.


• Latvia is also not standing down with its defensive intentions. Its defense sector’s objectives for 2021 will be modernization of the country’s army and enhancement of its cybersecurity, according to the legislative draft on the 2021 state budget, reported BNN news.


Defense Ministry’s main activities for 2021 include sustainable development of the country’s armed forces in accordance with the standing development plan and available funding. The ministry also plans to secure necessary infrastructure solutions to ensure comprehensive development for the armed forces by the continuing development of combat and support capabilities and construction of related infrastructure.


Latvia’s Defense Ministry also plans to enhance the country’s cybersecurity and national cyber protection capabilities to improve protection against cyber attacks and reduce risks to digital security.


• A recent poll in Ukraine should make Moscow think twice about continuing its war against Ukraine. The survey shows that 85% of Ukrainians feel themselves to be patriots and 60% said they’re ready to take up arms to defend their country. This is a slight increase from 2019 when the percentage was 56%.

• Ukraine declared its independence some 30 years and in that time a new generation was born and grew into maturity. This demographic cohort never new Russian oppression and subjugation except from books and the stories of their parents and grandparents. Yet those men and women are proud to take arms to defend the only native country that they know.


An article in Euromaidan Press highlights their deep commitment to Ukraine and its defense against Russian aggression. The article was written by Dariya Bezruchenko and translated by Christine Chraibi. “In their fight for freedom and dignity, these once-carefree young people have become mature men and women who clearly understand why they’re fighting against Russian aggression. For them, it’s a truly patriotic war of liberation,” Bezruchenko wrote.


Another soldier poignantly recalled: “One day in 2016, a 40-year-old soldier told me this: ‘We must defend our country and let the young people stay home. They must be protected; they are the future of the country!’  However, I’ve met many young people on the front line. They’re in their twenties, but they’re defending Ukraine’s right to choose its own path without asking permission from its so-called ‘older brother.’”


God bless Ukraine’s fighting men and women in this latest war against Russian aggression.


• Ukraine has been reelected to the UN Human Rights Council – not that you’ve read about it. Strangely, reports in the news media about the latest composition of the council focused on countries that were not elected such as Saudi Arabia and the dregs that were elected – Russia, China and Cuba.


“As in the previous three years, we will work together with our partners to ensure that human rights take their rightful place. To remind about the highest value of human life. To show that there are no ‘politicized’ and so-called ‘real’ topics. To reaffirm that New York and the Security Council cannot be self-sufficient without Geneva and the Human Rights Council. Accordingly, the security agenda is inseparable from the human rights agenda as lasting peace, peaceful coexistence, and common prosperity are impossible without real steps to strengthen human rights and the rule of law. It is especially true against the background of how fundamental freedoms are violated in different parts of the world,” First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Emine Dzheppar posted on Facebook.


At the same time, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that Russia, “a prominent human rights violator,” had also made its way to the UN Human Rights Council due to lack of competition in the East Europe group.


Nonetheless, congratulations to Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, permanent representative of Ukraine to the UN, and his team. This posting will surely go far in defending the rights of Ukrainians in Ukraine as well as Russian-occupied Crimea.


• Russian President Putin has called for an immediate, unconditional renewal of the last nuclear arms treaty between Moscow and Washington, pointing out or threatening that his own country has developed new strategic weapons that the United States does not have. Today’s unstable global climate does not have to be further muddied by the Kremlin’s menacing behavior.


Reportedly, the Russian leader met virtually on Friday with members of his security council and placed arms control high on his agenda. After calling first on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to report on the progress of talks to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) before it expires on February 4, Putin weighed in with his point of view on the failing non-proliferation pact.


“It would be extremely sad if the treaty ceased to exist altogether and were not replaced by another fundamental document of this kind,” he said. Putin touted the success of the treaty and its 2010 and 1991 predecessors in preventing an all-out arms race between the top two nuclear powers, but also took the opportunity to claim that the Russian arsenal has in some ways surpassed that of the U.S.—something he was willing to address in a new agreement.


“It is clear that we have new weapons systems that the American side does not have, at least not yet,” Putin said, “but we do not refuse to discuss this side of the issue.”


Whether Putin is bluffing or not, the US cannot be pushed into a position of accepting his terms for a nuclear arms treaty. Verification before, during and after is needed.


• Sorry to hear that Linas Linkevičius, Foreign Minister of Lithuania, lost his mandate in the parliament after eight years. He has been a faithful friend of Ukraine, and a dynamic voice in defense of Ukraine and the other former captive nations against Russian aggression. Wherever he goes in the future, we’re sure he’ll remain supportive.