The annual press conference of the Russian President is always in spotlight. Many hate to admit it, but the quality of life of millions of people, and, in general, the right to life of millions, depends on this person’s decisions. It concerns not only the Russians, but also the residents of neighboring states. And of course, it concerns Ukraine.
It’s always a great responsibility to choose and prepare the "right" question; it’s always difficult. I am sure that there could be “better” questions asked, with priorities and accents placed differently...
I wish I could extend my question and ask a lot more.
It is very important to publicly raise before the Russian leadership the issue of human rights violations and poor living conditions of the Ukrainian citizens in the occupied territories, repressions against the Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians and Russians, who speak up against Crimea’s annexation. Some may say that everyone is happy in Crimea, and there is a total “#Krymnash” [“Crimea is ours” is a popular hashtag among the supporters of Putin’s policy]. But, had it been so rosy, the Crimean resident, Oleh Sentsov, whouln’t have been sentenced to 20 (!!!) years' in a high security prison. Even the murderer of a Russian statesperson, Galina Starovoitova, was punished with a lighter sentence. Therefore, the Kremlin has demonstrated, what will happen to those doubting the fact that "Crimea returned home." There are not a lot of options actually: to remain silent, go to prison, or "get out, back to your Ukraine.”
The vynil record with the song titled "Ukraine is Russia’s fraternal nation" has long been ruined, and everyone has long gotten tired of it. The “Echo of War" will haunt both countries for decades.
It’s also important to ask about the life of the Ukrainian citizens in the occupied Donbas. Why does Russia, given its de facto control over the occupied areas, frankly does not care about the local residents, many of whom have sincerely been striving for the so-called "Russian world”?! Why have people found themselves in squalid conditions, starving in the truest sense of the word?! The occupier takes responsibility for the occupied territory. Not enough money in Russia for Donbas? Redistribute! Take some money from the Chechen Republic and Murmansk region. If you can’t (or must not) take anything from Checnhya, there are many other regions across the Russian Federation. If you can’t maintain Donbas, go home. It’s interesting that there is a discussion in Moscow on the issue of actually returning Donbas to Ukraine, with no political conditions whatsoever, as such move is believed to further destabilize the situation. Indeed, in this case, Ukraine would see several millions of hostile citizens suffering from post-war syndrome, living in a looted region with the completely destroyed infrastructure. To put it mildly, they don’t love their country very much at the moment.
I would also like to ask Putin about some global issues. How does the Kremlin plan to build its future relations with Ukraine? The vynil record with the song titled "Ukraine is Russia’s fraternal nation" has long been ruined, and everyone has long gotten tired of it. The “Echo of War" will haunt both countries for decades. While the Russian minds quickly refocus from the Ukrainian enemy to a new, Turkish threat, the Ukrainian minds will not work like that. The wounds inflicted by Russia will keep hurting for a long time. Actually, a list of questions to Putin may stretch on and on...
Let me explain why my question was asked in a way I chose it to be asked.
The question was more extensive, by the way, but at the last moment, I refused to continue the question, as the reporters are not usually allowed to speak a lot at such events. The goal was to find out from Putin, how many Russian citizens, regardless of their legal status, were killed during the Donbas hostilities. After all, the Russian authorities have always underlined that the Russians who went to "fight against fascism" (speaking directly - to kill and rob the Ukrainian citizens) are "volunteers." Must there be someone in Russia to keep records of KIAs?! Even if they went to war "on their own will" or were "on vacation."
Russia will not withdraw its troops from the east of Ukraine, because it does not recognize the fact of the invasion. Ukraine will not fulfill the Minsk agreements, because, according to this document, the Ukrainian Constitution has to be approved in the Kremlin.
I have sent the greetings to Putin from the Russian GRU [military intelligence] officers who are on trial in Ukraine so that the parties to the conflict - Russia and Ukraine - started to call things by their names. If the Russian Federation will continue to call it the "civil war in the southeast" of Ukraine, we will be crawling forever toward the formula of "after any war comes peace." By the way, it’s interesting how the Russian propaganda uses the phrase "the southeast." Excuse me, but to verbally broaden the occupied territory, one must conquer it first. The Ukrainian soldiers, including the Russian speakers, will not let that happen.
What kind of a "civil war" is that if the Russian citizens have been fighting in Ukraine, sporting Russian military uniform, armed with the Russian weapons, following the orders of the Russian commanders, and their operation funded by the Russian taxpayers?! It would be absurd to say that there are no Ukrainian citizens fighting for the Russian side. It’s a fact. But in any war there are always collaborators. In Russia, this has to be remembered well, as there were plenty of historical examples. Therefore, the question of participation of the Russian military personnel in the Donbas hostilities is key for me. I confess that I was surprised by Putin’s frankness, in part of "we have never said there were no people [in Ukraine] who carried out certain tasks, including in the military sphere."
I’d like to quote Resolution 3314 of the UN General Assembly of 1974 defining Aggression:
Any of the following acts, regardless of a declaration of war, shall… qualify as an act of aggression:…
g) The sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State of such gravity as to amount to the acts listed above, or its substantial involvement therein. "
So, in terms of calling things by their real names, Vladimir Putin has made a significant step forward. I hope that by his next big press conference, the question will no longer be relevant and will not have to be repeated for the third time.
As for the claims of the righteous ones that neither party to the conflict implements the Minsk agreements, I really wish not to upset anyone, but these agreements simply can’t be fully implemented. A new format of talks should be considered. Russia does not implement the Minsk agreements. Russia will not withdraw its troops from the east of Ukraine, because it does not recognize the fact of the invasion. Ukraine will not fulfill the Minsk agreements, because, according to this document, the Ukrainian Constitution has to be approved in the Kremlin. No one, even the Russian authorities, hides the fact anymore that the so-called leaders the self-styled “LPR-DPR” are just puppets. Therefore mutual accusations of non-implementation of the Minsk-2 will continue. Meanwhile, Russia has already created another Transnistria, leaving behind plenty of fooled Ukrainian citizens, with no rights and future.
Roman Tsymbaliuk is an UNIAN correspondent in Russia