I was greatly surprised this week by an article by the Russian Federation’s ambassador to Israel, Alexander Shein. The Hebrew-language piece – “Why has the West accepted sanctions against Russia?” – was posted on the website Likudnik on Monday.
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My first reaction wasn’t to respond to this nonsense, because, frankly, it’s not even an article but a set of illogical justifications for the occupation of part of Ukrainian territory.
The “article” is a jumble of unrelated issues; for example, provisions of international law without reference to the Ukrainian reality, a “referendum” that took place under the threat of Russian guns, events taking place in South Sudan, Kosovo, and nationalist threats in Ukraine.
In short, the information is presented falsely without any kind of relevant analysis or basic understanding of the situation in Ukraine. All this coincides with long-standing Kremlin traditions or, as they say in Russia – “A guilty mind betrays itself.”
I don’t see any reason to comment further on the above-mentioned piece, but, to give Israelis a better grasp of the facts on the ground in Ukraine, I’d like to provide some credible facts on the situation in the country where I was born and spent most of my adult life.
The freedom demonstrations on Kiev’s Maidan square in the winter of 2013-14 and the subsequent Revolution of Dignity have become important turning points in Ukraine’s modern history. These crucial historic events lay the foundation of a new progressive nation, a nation that would refuse to tolerate any corrupt government or political appointees – in this case, Kremlin puppets.
Such a nation, I believe, deserves international recognition as it continues a struggle for freedom. After the incredibly painful path to freedom it has endured, it’s safe to say that Ukraine’s commitment to democratic values, the rule of law, respect for human rights and a market economy is undeniable.
The Revolution of Dignity laid the basis for effective changes in Ukrainian society and led to recognizable changes in the mindset of its citizens who have become active participants in the country’s political life. I’m convinced that throughout the history of my country, Ukrainians have never been as united in their feeling of purpose and destiny as during the Revolution of Dignity.
I know Israelis who came to Ukraine to participate in the revolution. Those who took part will attest that in the mainstream of the Maidan there was none of the chauvinism or “neo-Nazism” that the Russian propaganda machine was so vehement about.
The Crimean Peninsula and its residents were never physically or verbally threatened by the government of Ukraine. Crimea had full autonomy while part of Ukraine. Therefore, tales about the “persecution of Russian-speaking residents” of Crimea are Moscow’s propagandist fantasies contrived with the purpose of exculpating Russian aggression.
On October 26, 2014, our country held free and fair parliamentary elections in which the Ukrainian people confirmed their support for democracy, the rule of law and European democratic values.
Ukraine is currently enduring perhaps the most difficult period since the country gained its independence – a struggle for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state. It has faced an unprecedented challenge – the occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea by the neighboring Russian Federation.
A country that made a commitment to safeguarding Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world just 20 years ago ended up reneging on what was known as the Great Treaty between Ukraine and Russia. It also reneged on the Budapest Memorandum, which was to guarantee peace and the territorial integrity for our state.
In the process, it not only broke an international agreement signed on the highest levels of diplomatic oversight, it became an aggressor and violated stability in Ukraine and around the world. And it’s the Budapest Memorandum that the Russian diplomat does not mention at all.
In addition, today we are witnessing violence and criminal activities carried out by illegal armed groups in eastern Ukraine, and the suffering of innocent civilians that is a direct result of this. This situation was a response to the Ukrainian people’s desire to live in a Western society drawing on democratic values, the rule of law and respect for fundamental human liberties, notably the same principles as exercised by Israel’s citizens.
In lieu of this, I am very surprised and disappointed that a publication replete with lies and peanut propaganda such as the one I alluded to above would appear on the Likudnik website, the official media outlet of Likud, the highly esteemed ruling party of the State of Israel.
Hennadii Nadolenko is Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel.