Today fully revealed the naivety of those who thought that the revolution had won for good; those who thought we would be able to build a new Ukrainian democracy in peace, fighting against internal corruption, rectifying distortions in the judiciary and building counterweights against a potential new presidential dictatorship or corruption among lawmakers. Our northern “brother” is not in the least inclined to allow the creation right under his nose of an alternative national state – alternative in essence, values and the state form – especially since Ukraine is so deeply integrated into Russia’s conceptions of its own identity. Yet the aggressive moves by Putin’s Russia cannot be recognised as its “legitimate interests” in Ukraine. Ukrainian citizens should therefore prepare to actively defend the achievements of Ukraine’s revolution of dignity.
As the developments concerning Crimea show, it’s not a question of Crimea as such: we face a special operation to dismantle a conception of Ukrainian statehood that is so radically different from those that exist in the post-Soviet space. The uninterrupted development of Ukraine’s young democracy – which would look towards Western values of the accountability of government to the citizens who elected it, democratic rights and freedoms, broad access for citizens to their country’s resources, active and direct participation of the civil society in the country’s political decisions – seems like a direct threat to Russia’s project of statehood.
Over the past few years, and especially months, Ukraine’s has managed to move away from an ethno-linguinstic definition of the Ukrainian national project, and Ukrainian-ness in general: today, “Ukrainian” does not refer to ethnic, religious or linguistic belonging; “Ukrainian” is defined by commitment to the values of a democratic, free society. As the first results of sociological research on the “Euromaidan” protests show, the changes in the country were achieved by a broad coalition of Ukrainian citizens, consisting in a large part of Russian-speaking citizens and citizens who are not ethnic Ukrainians (the first people to die as a result of the use of force against protesters were not ethnic Ukrainians, nor are many members of the new Ukrainian government).
In particular, this shows that all these citizens only consider their rights and freedoms to be protected in a country that professes the above-mentioned universal principles of a democratic, free society: the rule of law, the accountability of the authorities, the protection of property, meritocracy, and the right and opportunity for cultural self-realization. This is what enabled the current, unprecedented unity of Ukrainian society around these values and ideals.
It is absolutely clear that today’s Russia under Putin is not a country that professes these values. Thus Ukrainian citizens – independent of linguistic, religious or ethnic belonging – should be ready to defend their choice not to live in Putin’s Russia.
In practice, this means that Ukrainian citizens across the country should launch a process of mobilisation. This applies especially to inhabitants of Ukraine’s East and South, as well as Crimea. Only their direct participation in exposing Russia’s intentions as aggressive, and Russian intervention as something that is directed against them personally, can protect them from forced incorporation into Putin’s project of statehood. Not the army, but ordinary Ukrainian citizens of the east, south and especially Crimea will be decisive in shaping the situation regarding Russian intervention in Ukrainian affairs. Such initiatives have already emerged and will most likely continue to grow.
This is particularly urgent given that neither the US, nor the UK, nor – in particular – the EU (which does not have its own army), are ready now for an armed conflict with Russia because of Ukraine (hence President Obama’s soft statement; even the generally tougher Republican McCain ruled out American armed intervention in a potential conflict [1:35 minutes into McCain’s quoted reaction]). Today Ukraine’s fate lies wholly in the hands of ordinary Ukrainian citizens – ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Armenians, Tatars, Hungarians, Romanians, whether Ukrainian- or Russian-speaking, Christian or Muslim.
We should see absolutely clearly that today Putin aims at the destruction of Ukraine’s project of statehood to a maximum degree; Crimea is merely a starting point for a full-scale plan of action. Rational arguments about the legitimacy of Ukraine’s authorities, the absence of objective threats to the free self-expression of any ethnic groups in Ukraine and hence the lack of necessity to defend them militarily, the lack of ethnic tensions in Ukraine, the inadmissibility of Russian interference in the internal affairs of an independent Ukraine in a situation of political and social transformation have no meaning for Putin’s Russia. For Putin, Ukraine – as a project of statehood so radically different from Russia’s – should be destroyed. No longer relying on Yanukovych and his entourage, Putin has decided to take matters into his own hands.
Only we – Ukrainian citizens – can save Ukraine now. In the same way, only the full defeat of Putin in Ukraine can save Russia and its citizens. That, and making those Russian political circles who share his beliefs realize that a policy of destruction towards Ukraine has in principle no chance of success and that it will above all have consequences for Russia itself.
We can continue calling on the international community and the guarantors of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. However, today Ukraine’s freedom and Ukraine’s future are entirely in our hands – the hands of Ukrainian citizens who do not want to live on the terms of Putin’s regime.