Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 25.05.2018
The President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, is on a state visit to Ukraine. After formal meetings in Kyiv with President Petro Poroshenko, she went to Donbas, the eastern region of Ukraine, to meet with Ukrainian military commanders and to see the battlefront for herself. Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, and to this day occupies Crimea and a part of Donbas – chunks of Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the south-east. Putin’s battlefront where he is invading Ukraine stretches like a scar across the land.
President Kaljulaid is the first head of state to go to the front and to visit with the Ukrainian troops who are defending their homeland and all of Europe from Russian invasion. On May 24, President Kaljulaid met Lieutenant-General Serhiy Nayev for talks about the war. General Nayev is the commander of the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. He’s in charge of Ukraine’s defence from Russian aggression in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. General Nayev thanked President Kaljulaid for her support and the Estonian people for their assistance in the fight to defend against Russia. Estonia’s help for Ukraine consists of material and humanitarian assistance and has exceeded 10 million euros since Russia began its invasion.
Posting on Twitter on May 24, President Kaljulaid wrote: “Checkpoint in Mayorsk, Donetsk region. #Ukraine is on the both sides of this line. World must not forget.” She included a photo of herself, the Estonian entourage, and the Ukrainian military delegation at a barricade at the Mayorsk checkpoint. Mayorsk is directly to the north-west of the temporarily Russian-occupied city of Horlivka. Illegal armed formations who take orders from Putin were only a few hundred metres away from where she was standing.
Kersti Kaljulaid is a real friend of Ukraine. While in Kyiv, she took part in a #FreeSentsov flashmob to demand the release of Oleg Sentsov and all 64 Ukrainian political prisoners who are being held illegally by Russia.
Russia has substantially increased attacks against civilians in Donbas since the start of the JFO on the first of May. General Nayev told the Estonian President: “Since the beginning of the operation, the enemy has carried out 21 bombardments of settlements.” That’s close to one attack each day with Russians deliberately targeting residential areas with shellfire. That’s a war crime.
Sadly – and unfortunately typically – Russia shelled a residential area of a Ukrainian settlement on May 24, the same day Estonian President Kaljulaid was visiting the battlefront and was in the region. Russian forces fired artillery at the village of Toretsk, which is in Luhansk region, 11 kilometres south of Popasna. The Russians shot at least 35 rounds from 152-millimetre calibre artillery and 120-millimetre calibre mortars. They struck two medical facilities: a psychiatric centre and a tuberculosis dispensary. Appallingly, the Russians used airburst anti-personnel explosive shells – designed to kill people more than damage structures. Fortunately, no local residents were injured.
After investigating the site of the attack in Toretsk, the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) condemned the Russians, saying: “Such actions by the leaders of the occupation administration of the Russian Federation are rather cynical, indicating a clear disregard for them by all the norms of international humanitarian law, the Geneva Convention, which pose a direct threat to the life and health of the civilian population.”
It should be noted that also on May 24 Russia sent the 77th truck convoy to resupply its invasion-occupation army in Donbas. No Western leader protested. No Western leader did anything to stop it. No Western leader did anything to protect the Ukrainian people who will be victimized by the resupplied Russian army that is attacking them.
At the same time as Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid became the first head of state to visit the battlefront where Russia is invading Ukraine, the Russians were shelling civilians and sending a military resupply convoy – as they have been doing without hindrance for almost four years. Well done to President Kaljulaid for visiting Ukraine’s heroic defenders and shame on other world leaders for not doing so. But friends of Ukraine and supporters of a rules-based international order have to do much, much more to stop Putin and stop Russia’s war against the West.