Kiev Must Show Compassion to Eastern Ukraine
Published: August 20, 2014 (Issue # 1825)
Itĺs aácliche toápoint out that objectivity andácommon sense are among theáfirst casualties ofáarmed conflictáŚ but itĺs important toánote that compassion often follows suit as well.
Today, theálack ofácompassion exemplified byáresidents ofáboth Moscow andáKiev over theáconflict ináeastern Ukraine andáthe future ofáUkraine as aáwhole ought toágive us serious pause.
Far beyond abstract politics, theáissue ofávery real, very serious hatred between two ôbrotherly nationsö should concern everyone today, particularly those who donĺt want toásee further instability onáEuropean soil.
InáMoscow, Iĺve grown tired ofáexplaining that just because Iĺm critical ofácurrent Russian policy onáUkraine doesnĺt mean Iĺm ôinto Nazism.ö Iĺve similarly grown tired ofápointing out that backing separatists ináUkraineáŚ whether unofficially or officiallyáŚ may backfire onáRussia ináthe worst possible way, as regional destabilization triggers greater destabilization over time.
But ináa similar vein, pointing out theáhorror ofácivilian casualties ináeastern Ukraine toáKiev residents often results ináderision andádownright hostility. ôMaybe these people should have thought about theáconsequences before siding with Russian-backed terrorists,ö is aárefrain one hears too often ináKiev these days.
Toábe certain, it makes sense foráKievans toábe angry. While theáWest andáRussia continue their stand off over Ukraine, theácountry itself faces anáincreasingly uncertain future.
Theástate ofáthe economy is dire. Ukraineĺs already unstable social andápolitical environment may worsen when theáarmyĺs battle with theáseparatists is over andáôthe boys come home fromáwar.ö It certainly doesnĺt help that theáfar-right volunteer battalions fighting ináeastern Ukraine may want toáplay aápart inápostwar politics.
Meanwhile, aáwar still rages ináeastern Ukraine.Among Maidan supporters ináKiev, plenty have friends who are now ináthe armed forces deployed ináeastern Ukraine. Some talk about friends they have lost inábattle. It makes sense toábe angry when some 19-year-old kid you knew will never come home again.
It equally makes sense toábe angry that, ináaddition toáviolence ináKiev last winter, locals had toádeal with everything fromáthe humiliating loss ofáCrimea toáincreasingly desperate-seeming brawls ináthe parliament.
Toábe fair, theáparliament did manage toápass anáimportant lustration bill ináits first reading last week, although one has toáwonder whether theáeventual law will be properly enforced.
Yet despite theápain ofáKievĺs residents, civilians ináeastern Ukraine have emerged as theámost vulnerable parties ináthe entire horrid mess that is theáUkraine crisis so far.
It is sad andátelling that theánew Ukrainian government was said toáhave put together anáaid convoy foráthe Donbass region only after theáRussians had done theásame. It makes Kievĺs move seem like aáPR stunt andábrings home theáfact that civilians ináeastern Ukraine have apparently been largely off-the-radar as far as theáauthorities are concerned.
Theábickering over theáconvoy drives home theápoint, though, that what weĺre seeing ináUkraine right now is not just aálocal conflict involving some international players. It is also aávicious cycle being simultaneously experienced byátwo societiesáŚ both Russian andáUkrainianáŚ that are growing inured toáthe idea ofádestruction andádeath onátheir doorstep.
Andáthe less sympathy andásupport that eastern residents get fromáKiev, theáless they are going toácare about theáwhole notion ofáa sovereign Ukraine.
Natalia Antonova is anáAmerican playwright andájournalist.