Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 06.07.2018
Putin hates and fears Ukrainians. Loyal Ukrainians who do not give up on their home and native land, who refuse to surrender to the foreign invaders from Muscovy, face Putin’s bitterest enmity. So it is with Volodymyr Balukh. Volodymyr Balukh is a 47-year-old Ukrainian farmer who has patriotic feelings towards his country and flies its blue and yellow flag over his house. There is nothing remarkable in that at all – except that his house lies in Crimea, a part of Ukraine that Russia invaded and occupied in 2014. For refusing to submit to the foreign invaders and for visibly demonstrating that Crimea is Ukraine, Volodymyr Balukh is Putin’s hostage, held captive by the Muscovy regime of state terrorism.
On July 2018, a so-called ‘court’ in Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea said that it would hold Volodymyr Balukh hostage for three more years. This was a ‘sentence’ for some crime, but the charges are fabricated and meaningless. The decision to single out and make an example of Volodymyr Balukh was made in Moscow. In addition to the two years as a hostage remaining as a result of his first so-called ‘sentence’ he now faces five years as a captive of the Putin regime.
Moscow took the outrageous and provocative step of increasing the punishment for an innocent man after direct appeals from around the world to release Volodymyr Balukh. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE; Russia is a member of the Council of Europe) declared that Volodymyr Balukh meets the Assembly’s definition of political prisoner. PACE called on Russia to release all Ukrainians whom it detains on politically motivated or otherwise fabricated charges. Volodymyr Balukh fits that criteria to a tee.
Volodymyr Balukh embodies the resistance of the Ukrainian people to foreign invasion, occupation, and domination by Muscovy. Volodymyr Balukh wrote in a letter that Ukrainians have an unwavering resistance an refusal to be broken. This enrages the Kremlin, which seeks to grab as much territory from Ukraine as it can. He writes that Muscovy power on occupied territory in Ukraine (which is currently Crimea and part of Donbas) “is held together by totally lying propaganda, intimidation, and brutal reprisals against dissidents.”
Volodymyr Balukh is on hunger strike against falsity of the charges brought against him (he has been ‘convicted’ three times on fabricated evidence) and against the illegitimacy of the authority of Russia over Crimea, Ukraine. He began the hunger strike on March 19, but he was persuaded on Day 25 to take a minimum of food to prevent the occupation authorities from using force-feeding. Since June 23, though, he has resumed a full hunger strike. This coincides with the hunger strike of Oleg Sentsov to free all the Ukrainian political prisoners of war. The timing is designed to counter whatever propaganda advantage the Putin regime can get as host of the FIFA World Cup.
Russia is relentless in its war against Ukraine. The war is Putin’s War, driven by Putin’s rage. The independence, spirit, and freedom of the Ukrainian people is completely unfathomable to Putin. Unable to dominate Ukraine, Putin will stop at nothing to destroy it. Reason and sanity says that farmer from Crimea, Ukraine who has never committed a crime of violence in his life poses no threat to the President of the Russian Federation. Prudence and good judgement says that if Putin freed Volodymyr Balukh and the other Ukrainian political prisoners then that would be a step away from total pariah status for Russia.
But Putin will have none of that. In response to appeals to release Volodymyr Balukh, Putin has vowed to hold the Ukrainian farmer as a hostage for five more years. Putin’s hatred and fear is beyond reason as he contemplates a free man and a free Ukrainian, Volodymyr Balukh. Balukh is a hero to Ukrainians for his moral integrity, his patriotism, and his courage. Balukh epitomizes the contempt Ukrainians have for the shabby domination of parts of Ukraine by the foreigners from Muscovy. Even as a hostage, Balukh exerts his free will with the personal and political statement of a hunger strike. The more Putin lashes out in hysteria against Volodymyr Balukh and the other Ukrainian hostages, the weaker Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and standing in the world becomes.