Many opinion pieces have been published recently in the Israeli media about the current internal conflict in Ukraine and the deep cultural divisions between, on the one side, its Western, and on the other, its Eastern and Southern regions. So for a while it seemed excessive to get involved into this debate.
But the op-ed by my dear colleague H.E. Mr. Hennadii Nadolenko, Ambassador of Ukraine to Israel, which appeared in Haaretz on April 22 ("Nobody wants war, but Ukraine is fighting back"), drew my attention. As an official representative of the Russian Federation in the State of Israel, let me also share with you various aspects of my country’s vision of the current situation in Ukraine.
We in Russia are really anxious about the security of our citizens and of the huge Russian minority in Ukraine. Nevertheless, despite what has been said in the Western media, the Russian government has made it clear many times that it did not seek any intervention in the Ukrainian crisis. The key principle of the Russian position is that our neighbors’ crisis must be settled by the Ukrainians themselves. Anyone who puts an effort to distance himself from the propaganda broadside will easily find out that there is no proof of any Russian backing of the popular uprisings in Donetsk, Slavyansk and many other cities in the Ukrainian East and South, whose mixed population is afraid of the nationalistic fever of the new authorities in Kiev. At the same time, anti-Russian protagonists in the West simply omit the fact that the legitimacy of those authorities that came to power in Kiev by means of coup d’etat is doubtful, to say the least. What happens in the Western media these days is the well-known practice of double standards.
For the sake of the peoples of Ukraine, the security of its ethnic minorities and stability in our neighboring fraternal country, the Russian government took the uneasy decision to start a dialogue with those people who took over in Kiev. On April 17, the Geneva Statement on the situation in Ukraine was approved by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. It was agreed to take urgent steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security in Ukraine. All expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism, were strongly condemned and rejected. It was decided that all sides must refrain from any acts of violence, intimidation or provocation. Russia underlined the importance of economic and financial stability in Ukraine, which is now seriously disrupted.
On this issue, I would like to use this opportunity to remind the reader that Russia is the only country up to now that has sponsored the ailing Ukrainian economy. We have been subsidizing gas supplies to Kiev for many years – only during the last four years those subsidies accounted for $35.4 billion. Last December we provided the Ukrainian government with an urgent $3 billion credit line, though it demanded changes in our own legislature. Is there any other ally of the peoples of Ukraine who has offered more economic aid for them?
Unfortunately, in violation of the Geneva agreements the new authorities in Kiev did not take any action to disarm the right sector – the most notorious of the ultra-nationalistic organizations and one that was directly involved in the coup d’etat that led to the toppling of the legitimate Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Moreover, the day after the Geneva accords, the new authorities in Kiev ordered the army to shoot at civilians even if they were engaged in peaceful protests. The right sector has staged provocative actions, killing several activists in the vicinity of the city of Slavyansk, whose people are calling for the federalization of Ukraine.
So nothing that the authorities in Kiev were supposed to have started to implement - according to agreement in Geneva - has actually been done by them. Even the military operations against civilians in the Eastern regions of the country only paused, not stopped, and these operations were declared reactivated once again after U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden visited Kiev. We in Russia believe that it’s not just a coincidence that the new authorities in Kiev chose the moment of Mr. Biden’s visit to announce the resumption of military actions, taking into consideration that the launching of this operation happened immediately after the CIA Chief John Brennan’s visit to Kiev. These are the facts, and we do not have any reason not to believe that it’s not the Ukrainians themselves, but the Americans, who are actually running the show in our brothers’ country.
I would like to conclude that I was pleased to find out how many people in Israel are not deceived by Western propaganda and do understand what is really happening in Ukraine. During the last, uneasy months, I have received plenty of private letters on this issue by Israelis who used to live in Russia and Ukraine. They express support to our government in (a quote): “this unequal battle against hypocrisy, treason and nationalism shown by Western states, even close partners of Russia”. Some of them have even called for Russia to get involved and to stop the spillover of violence to prevent another massacre similar to what happened in Yugoslavia or Ossetia.
I am hoping the worst will not happen.
Sergey Yakovlev is Ambassador of the Russian Federation in the State of Israel.
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