Exploring the origins of the invasion of Ukraine

Exploring the origins of the invasion of Ukraine

File photo dated February 27, 2022 shows Ukrainians hold up placards and national flags during a march from Lumpini Park to Benjakitti Park in central Bangkok,  demanding  an immediate end to Russia's attack on Ukraine. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool).
File photo dated February 27, 2022 shows Ukrainians hold up placards and national flags during a march from Lumpini Park to Benjakitti Park in central Bangkok, demanding an immediate end to Russia's attack on Ukraine. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool).

Everybody knows Ukraine is at war now. Almost all politically minded people are talking about recent developments in my country.

What is most important for me in Thailand is to help Thai people understand the real reasons Russia has waged war against Ukraine and to refute common myths and disinformation disseminated by the Russian propaganda machine.

Russians and their proxies say that this story began in 2014 when Western countries supported a revolutionary movement in Ukraine. Just what kind of movement was that? Is it true that the nationalists were involved? Yes, they were. And not only them but all the people of Ukraine.

Since gaining independence in 1991 and during many voting campaigns, the people of Ukraine, especially the young generation, have clearly stated their willingness to align with progressive Europe. But in 2013, then-president Viktor Yanukovych officially refused any move towards a European future. This provoked numerous protests. On Feb 22, 2014, Mr Yanukovych fled to Russia. Crucially, however, the day before he signed "An agreement on Crisis Resolution" with the opposition. The end of the crisis was clear as day. The agreement was verified by European representatives, yet there was one person who refused to leave his signature on the document. It was a Russian ombudsman and representative Vladimir Lukin.

The Revolution of Dignity erupted in 2013, particularly in response to president Yanukovych's sudden decision not to sign an agreement about political association and concerning a free-trade zone with the European Union.

From that moment on, Russia decided to "punish" Ukraine. As a first step, Russia chose to occupy the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

In April 2014, a terrorist group headed by the Russian citizen and former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Igor Strelkov (aka Girkin) crossed the administrative border of Ukraine starting to create fake "'people's republics". These kinds of "republics" are not a unique phenomenon. They had been established by Russia in Moldova (the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, or Transnistria, 1990-1992) and Georgia (Republic of South Ossetia, 1992; the Republic of Abkhazia, 1999). In the same manner, Russia has been fuelling permanent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan for decades.

Before February 2022, Russia had been supplying the "republics" in Donbas with armed human resources and heavy weaponry. By the beginning of 2022, solely in Donbas, with less than 5 million people, Russia concentrated about 800 tanks. That is more than four times the size of the entire Royal Thai Army. And this enormous force was dispersed on a territory comparable to Ubon Ratchathani province.

The current phase of our eight-year-old war with Russia started on Feb 24, when Russian troops launched a military attack against Ukraine.

Why did Russia commit such acts upon its neighbours? The honest answer is simple but not trivial. Unlike most modern countries, Russia and its leaders live centuries behind the times. In a world where trading and international collaboration determine our lives, enabling transfer of advanced technologies, intercontinental travel and more, Russia lives in a paradigm typical of the 17th and 18th centuries. This paradigm has no place for national autonomy, human rights and freedom. It was a time when brute force mattered more than human life, and a country's power was determined by its area and number of soldiers.

Mr Putin can say whatever he wants about his intentions for Ukraine or the whole world, but sometimes even he cannot hide the truth. In February when announcing war against Ukraine, he spoke of the "de-Nazification" and demilitarisation of Ukraine. He stressed that Russia would not occupy Ukraine. However, we saw the real value of his words on June 9, when Mr Putin discoursed with journalists about his mission to regain "former Russian lands" and compared himself to the first Russian emperor, Peter I, whose 350th anniversary Russia celebrated recently. Maniacal Russian imperialism is the real cause of the war. Russia does not consider Ukraine as an independent country nor Ukrainians as a separate people. The same works for Latvians, Estonians, Poles and any of Russia's neighbours.

Moreover, what can serve as justification for killing innocent people and even children? De-Nazification? Ukraine's move towards Nato membership?

All such "reasons" are pretexts for taking over my country and eliminating Ukraine. It is an attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, a grave violation of the UN Charter and the norms and principles of international law.

To keep Ukraine out of Nato has been given as one reason for Russia's aggression, but it is a misleading assessment.

Although Ukraine was ready to give up its intentions for membership, in the end that didn't help to stop the war. Moreover, Russia now faces the opposite of what it hoped to achieve with Sweden and Finland since announcing their intentions to join Nato.

How to solve this spiralling crisis, which is at risk of escalating into World War III? My answer is simple: Russia should be defeated on all fronts and should return to a point behind all marked red lines. Until then, with the support of its partners, Ukraine will carry on resisting.

Oleksandr Lysak is the Charge d'Affaires of Ukraine in the Kingdom of Thailand.

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