Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 06.10.2017
Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia is an aggressor. Crimea is occupied by Russia. Parts of Donbas are occupied by Russia. Crimea is Ukraine. Donbas is Ukraine. Liberation of occupied Crimea and Donbas from the Russian invaders is the prerequisite to peace in Europe.
These are stark truths. Saying them is how the peoples of the West will begin to save civilization from the existential threat of Putin at war.
Starting in 2014, the Ukrainian armed forces have been under terms of reference called an “Anti-Terrorist Operation.” This made what was really waging war for national defence seem to be little more than an assistance measure to the civil authorities, who are acting to curtail the illegal activities of the terrorist groups, so-called “LPR” and “DPR.” But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not a proxy war but a real war. War by aggressor Russia against Ukraine is merely fronted by entities created by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and called by them “LPR” and “DPR.” With a mix of regular soldiers, auxiliary troops, and contract soldiers (mercenaries), and conscripts Russia is fighting international war against Europe and trying to change the borders of Europe by force. Europeans have not seen the like since 1945. Calling Ukraine’s defence against foreign invasion an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” is a disservice to the at least 2,600 Ukrainian armed forces men and women who have sacrificed their lives in defence of Ukraine, Europe, and the West. On 16 April 2014, then Acting President, Oleksandr Turchynov, announced the Anti-Terrorist Operation. On 13 June 2017, now Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov, stated that Ukraine needed a new format to defend itself in the war being waged against it by Russia.
Legislation was introduced in the Verknovna Rada on 5 October 2017 to change the legal foundation of the war that Ukraine has been fighting against invaders from Russia. Some of the language in the tabled bills is praiseworthy. Gone is the term “Anti-Terrorist Operation.” The terrorists that go under the names “LPR” and “DPR” are correctly called the “Russian occupation administration.” The bill presented to parliament explicitly names Russia as an aggressor. Naming Russia as an aggressor state is important for international law, as it defines Russia’s actions as illegal, and its presence on Ukrainian territory as illegitimate. The legislation also talks about restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine. It is the duty of any sovereign state to hold a monopoly of violence within its borders, and the central government in Kyiv must be the only authority to wield organized violence within Ukraine. The term “temporarily occupied territories” is used, and it is a good one. It recognizes the existential reality that Russia occupies about four percent of the territory of Ukraine, and that the central government in Kyiv does not now have authority over these territories. But the sway of Muscovy over Ukrainian land can only ever be temporary.
A deep flaw in the legislation is that it addresses Donbas but not Crimea. The status of Crimea and Donbas is falsely projected as being different by the invader, Russia. Russia claims that it has ‘annexed’ Crimea, while on the other hand it denies that the Russian army in Donbas is a Russian army at all. But the status of Crimea and Donbas are not different in the slightest – not from Ukraine’s point of view, in international law, or from the status quo. Both Crimea and Donbas have been invaded by Russia; Russia is the aggressor in both places; Russia temporarily occupies both territories; both Crimea and Donbas are wholly Ukrainian territory and Ukraine must liberate both.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine must now turn to the Ukrainian liberation of Donbas and Crimea. A new law about the status of the temporarily occupied territories has been just passed by the Verkhovna Rada. If this law drops the term “Anti-Terrorist Operation” and defines Russia as an aggressor then a start can be made in planning how liberation of Ukrainian land and people can proceed. Russia is an aggressor, and Putin’s War will stop only when that aggression is stopped and victory is achieved over Russia. The only way to stop Putin is to throw his occupation army out of Donbas and Crimea. When Ukraine has exclusive control over its side of the international border at Rostov and at the Kerch Strait, only then will this war in Europe be over.
Russia is an aggressor and has no business being anywhere in Ukraine. Saying this gives the possibility of acting on it. Liberating Donbas and Crimea from the Russian invaders is how to restore peace to war-torn Europe.