Recently Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Ukraine of “increase of nationalistic sentiments” in his usual propagandist manner. But his statement that the national minorities of Hungarians and Romanians are discriminated in Ukraine by being mobilized to army in larger proportions than ethnic Ukrainians was especially hypocritical. Such words were obviously directed at subversion of relations between nationalities in Ukraine. Naturally, they absolutely do not correspond to reality.
Russia’s invasion in Donbas became a war not only for Ukrainians. Peoples that suffered from Russian aggression the most have already come to help Ukraine and are now fighting in its volunteer battalions. Among them is the Dzhokhar Dudayev International Peacekeeping Battalion, which includes Chechens, Ingush, Azerbaijanis, Tatars, and representatives of other nations, and totals up to 300 people. This subdivision was created by an organization “Free Caucasus.” It is based in Denmark, where a lot of political emigrants from the Caucasus live now. The battalion was led by Brigade General of the Armed Forces of Ichkeria Isa Munayev, who was killed in the battle near Debaltseve.
The Day talked to a representative of the Chechen Diaspora in Ukraine, doctor of technical sciences, associate of the Physics and Technology Institute of Metals and Alloys of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine Abdi NURADINOV.
We also addressed leaders of national communities of Poland and Germany in Ukraine with the following questions: what are the sentiments in your national community? What is your assessment of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine? Do representatives of your ethnic groups participate in military actions in the ATO zone?
“Putin does not need Ukrainians as a nation at all”
Abdi NURADINOV, representative of the Chechen Diaspora in Ukraine
The war in Donbas has antagonized Chechens: the so-called “Kadyrovites,” fighting on Russia’s side, and “Dudayevites,” who fight for Ukraine. How can you comment on this?
“There is nothing surprising here. People who fight with terrorists are forced to do so, and Russia’s cynicism is revealed again, when it talks about ‘volunteers.’ They fight on a ‘voluntary-compulsory’ principle. Moreover, the Chechens, who had the experience of the war, would hardly volunteer. These wars are a common grief for Ukrainians and Chechens, which unites us in a desire and aspiration to move this disaster away or to lessen the burden of it.”
Do you see similarities between the two Chechen wars and the war in Ukraine?
“Any war is cynical, but the war in Ukraine is twice as cynical. It is impossible to watch Russian news and TV channels: Russia, which destroyed some 120 to 200 thousand people in the Chechen Republic, accuses Ukraine of ‘genocide’ and ‘punitive operations.’ Besides, this is the cynicism of politicians who unleashed these wars and cannot calm down.”
The RF will still officially not acknowledge its military presence in Donbas. How long, in your opinion, can this war last, and how can it end?
“Unfortunately, the multinational Russian people turned out to be a hostage of processes that take place in the head of one person in the Kremlin, and the fact they will not recognize their involvement in the war in Donbas... Axioms do not need to be proved, they are based on the facts a priori. I think the disillusionment of the international community is related to these cynical statements by Russian politicians about Russia’s non-involvement in this conflict.
“I have been to Russia recently, and the propaganda that is working there is taking its toll, since many ordinary Russians are so brainwashed that it is quite hard to talk common sense into them. Until Ukraine has an equally powerful informational influence on Russians as the Kremlin does, it will be hard to bring a different point of view to the people. Except for the Internet, there is no other source to learn the truth about the ongoing events from. It is hard to count on people becoming more insightful all by themselves. The disillusionment will come for a different reason: when the ‘Crimea is ours’ hysteria hits every citizen in the wallet even harder. For example, prices for some food items in Grozny are two to four times higher than in Kyiv. This is the price Russia is paying for its actions. There are obvious facts, which lay on the surface, and ordinary people can understand only them.”
Given Putin’s actions in Chechnya, is it possible to predict his actions in relation to Ukraine?
“I think Putin does not need Ukrainians as a nation at all. In general, his actions are based on the principle ‘the worse for Ukraine economically, the better for Russia.’ Putin counts on the protesting voters in our country, who will wipe out the incumbent government. And a Maidan of million people is not necessary for that, a smaller number will be enough. A new government can be more docile for Russia and Putin.
“As for the warfare, considering the state of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, if there is no financial, military and technical, or any other aid to Ukraine, and no pressure on Russia, Putin might not stop. The main thing for him is to create a sort of Transnistria in eastern Ukraine, and then continue the attack. Even Russia does not have the resources for an open war with Ukraine, because the Russian people are already paying a high price for ‘Crimea is ours.’ And it is only a matter of time when they become uncomfortable with it.”
The war in Donbas is also called not merely a conflict between Ukraine and Russia, but a conflict between civilizations. What do you think about it?
“Even geographically, Ukraine is located between two civilizations. One cannot compete with the other in either science, or technology, or any type of achievements. Instead, it decided to rattle the saber and show its force, for which its people is suffering, and Ukrainians are suffering even more. Unfortunately, this is the war of Russia against the whole civilized world, and Ukraine is on the border of this conflict. It is on the frontline of the civilized world.
“It seems to me that Russia should not have opposed itself to the whole civilized community, but integrate and cooperate with it. Unfortunately, the RF chose a different path. In 2008 it ‘swallowed’ a part of Georgia, and then became lit up and decided to use the same scheme to get a part of Ukraine. But not everything went according to its plan here, even though it succeeds at many things. Merkel hit the nail on the head when she spoke about the leader of Russia: when a person exists in some parallel world, he assesses the situation inadequately and acts correspondingly.”
“Poles have always supported Ukraine”
Anton STEFANOWICZ, chairperson of the Association of Poles in Ukraine:
“Members of our organization, the Association of Poles in Ukraine, have continuously participated in the events on Maidan at first, there was always a Polish flag there. At various national minorities meetings, we have always supported the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine’s striving for the independence and civil dignity, things for which Maidan actually happened. Lately, we have also supported all the actions of national minorities aimed at the discussion of this complicated situation, because the Russian aggressor is fighting in Ukraine. For example, we are a part of the Public Council at the Ministry of Culture. Also, we have made an appeal, in which we recognize Russia as an aggressor, and the so-called DNR and LNR as terrorist organizations, and urge all other national minority organizations to join this initiative and support us.
“Of course, Poles participate in these events. Two Poles, citizens of Ukraine, died on Maidan. Now some were drafted, and some volunteered. But we do not have a list of people of Polish origin who fight in Donbas in the ATO zone.
“Poland and Poles have always supported progressive transformations in Ukraine. And now the attitude towards Poles in Ukraine is much better than it used to be.
“We participate in the current events in the east as volunteers as well. For example, we collected clothes for people in the ATO zone. Our representatives actively help the locals there.”
“There are volunteers and soldiers among the ethnic Germans”
Volodymyr LEISLE, chairperson of the Council of Germans in Ukraine:
“On behalf of the Council of Germans in Ukraine, we have repeatedly emphasized the stand, adopted at the Congress of Germans in Ukraine, that we support the united, indivisible, and peaceful Ukraine. Just like all the sober-minded citizens of Ukraine, ethnic Germans feel the annexation of Crimea and aggression in the east keenly. Since 2001, the largest number of ethnic Germans has lived in Donetsk oblast. A lot of them are in a complicated situation now: some have left for permanent residence in Germany, but the majority are in various regions of Ukraine now as forced refugees: they do not have either a place to live, or a permanent job. Personally I can say that, as a chairperson of the Council of Germans in Ukraine, I myself am a forced refugee from Crimea, and now I am living and working in Kyiv.
“Among ethnic Germans, just like among representatives of other nationalities, there are volunteers and army members who serve in the ATO zone. I will mention only two significant events from the recent ones. The first one took place on February 12: a memorial service for the killed soldier from Saint Mary Battalion Kyrylo Geinz (codename German) took place in Kyiv. A citizen of Russia, Geinz was an ethnic German. He died on February 10 during an offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the National Guard. German took the first National Guard reconnaissance group to Pavlopil. He joined the battalion in September last year. NGO Wiedergeburt, the Community of Germans in Ukraine, took his grave in its care. Then, about two months ago, a son of an ethnic German family from Poltava died in the ATO zone. He was a member of a volunteer battalion. Despite the fact that the boy was awarded an order, he has still not been given the status of the ATO member. Now our organization helps overcome bureaucratic difficulties and reach out to officials in charge.”