No Ukrainian citizens can be left living under the Russian President’s fascist rule, writes Paul Niland

Sign up for our weekly Behind the Headlines email and get a free copy of Byline Times posted to you

On Saturday 14 January, just before lunchtime, a massive Russian missile carrying a one-ton explosive warhead slammed into a residential apartment building in the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine. Forty-five people were killed in this latest barbaric act committed against Ukrainian citizens. The remains of 13 victims, those who were closest to the point of impact, were never found – their bodies vaporised.

In the wake of the attack, a makeshift memorial to the victims sprang up in Moscow. Under a statue of a Ukrainian poet in the Russian capital, people laid flowers – and were promptly arrested. Russia under Vladimir Putin has become a fascist police state, and that is to be the fate of any and all territory that he controls or perceives to belong to his kingdom.

This is why his war cannot result in any of Ukraine or any Ukrainian citizens being left subject to his rule. The choice of abandoning Ukrainian citizens to Putin’s fascist police state system is not an acceptable one.

But there are many calls – some of them genuinely meant as a search for peace and others from characters who are known to shill for Putin in particular and dictators in general – for the war in Ukraine to be ended through ‘negotiations’ between the warring parties.

These calls are either misguided or deliberately designed to leave Russia in an advantageous position. The arguments must be exposed as hollow and such discourse must be taken off the table.

‘There Can Be No Concessionsor Negotiations with Vladimir Putin’

Paul Niland

Calls for a negotiated peace is, essentially, rooted in the idea that in some way Russia has a legitimate claim to parts of what became the modern state of independent Ukraine after the break up of the Soviet Union. Perhaps this perception exists because people in certain parts of the country identify as ethnically Russian or because they are Russian language speakers. Russian propaganda has managed to convince some that either of these two factors add up to a person being ‘Russian’. Therefore, perhaps Russia has a rightful claim to the land or the lives made there. This is false.

The reality is that Russia has no legitimate claim to any part of Ukraine. Not based on language preference or ethnicity. Although many in Donbas, for historical reasons, may have declared themselves to be ethnically Russian, in the 1991 Ukrainian independence referendum, 83% of the residents of that region voted to live in a free and independent Ukraine.

Under Putin, the lives of these people would be marred by destruction and abduction.

From the stage of the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, a 12-year-old boy named Sasha addressed the audience. How he came to be addressing the gathered world leaders is unclear or, rather, how he came to have escaped what would have been his fate is unclear. But Sasha, from Mariupol, described how he was separated from his mother in one of Russia’s so-called ‘filtration’ camps and told that he was being taken to Russia to be adopted, even though he has living parents. Other children in that same situation have been told that they have been abandoned by their parents.

The precise number of children who have been deported from Ukraine to Russia is not known, but estimates range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Their fate in Russia is to be ‘re-educated’, to kill their sense of Ukrainian identity and to artificially replace it through brainwashing and propaganda with a sense of Russian identity. I do not believe is not an exaggeration to say that those calling for the partition of Ukraine along the lines of current territorial control are complicit in genocide.

Don’t Miss a Story

We have seen, in Mariupol and in any other city town or village that has been seized by Russia in this phase of the war, what the cost of Russia’s ‘liberation’ has been. The total destruction of Ukrainian people’s homes, schools, hospitals and everything else that once allowed them to live adequate, if not materially wealthy, lives. 

The Russian way of war is to use heavy artillery to destroy population centres that it then intends to capture – the cost in terms of civilian casualties is either irrelevant or to be celebrated. Some families, though, refuse to leave. I have heard of many stories explaining why, they are all personal. An older woman who has to tend her animals because that is the only life she knows. A defiant middle-aged lady saying she was born in this city and would rather die there than leave.

And what is left of these areas? Imagine a town lying in ruins, buildings destroyed by weeks or months of artillery battery. Where there is no power, no gas, no water. Where the windows are all blown-out in the remaining structures because of shocks from explosions close by. And imagine living here under the occupation of a fascist police state, intent on committing genocide of a group of people because of their national identity.

Putin would like to present the acquisition of new lands in Ukraine by Russia as a victory. Any ‘negotiation’ may end the shooting, but Russia would be expanded, having gained new territory and now owning the rich resources of another independent nation.

Calling for peace is simplistic, easy, even logical. The reality of what this means is anything but.  

Paul Niland is an Irish journalist based in Ukraine. He is the founder of the country’s national suicide prevention hotline, Lifeline Ukraine

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

New to Byline Times? Find out more about us

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION

A new type of newspaper – independent, fearless, outside the system. Fund a better media.

Don’t miss a story! Sign up to our newsletter (and get a free edition posted to you)

Our leading investigations include: empire & the culture warBrexit, crony contractsRussian interferencethe Coronavirus pandemicdemocracy in danger, and the crisis in British journalism. We also introduce new voices of colour in Our Lives Matter.

More stories filed under War in Ukraine

Lying Again? The Many Questions for Boris Johnson Over his Support for Ukraine

, 30 January 2023
With the former Prime Minister again dominating the news with claims of alleged nuclear threats from Vladimir Putin, former diplomat Alexandra Hall Hall puts his record on Ukraine under the spotlight

EXCLUSIVE ‘An Act of Terrorism’: Putin’s War on Ukraine’s Children

, 30 January 2023
Sian Norris reports on Russia's armed violence against Ukraine's schools, and the impact of the war on the country's most vulnerable population

Let’s Continue to Talk About Crimea

, 29 January 2023
At the heart of any resolution of the war in Ukraine is the issue of the Crimean Tatars. Maria Romanenko explains how a play, part of the UK/Ukraine season of culture, explores their subjugation and resistance

More stories filed under Argument

‘Brexit – Three Years On: The Lie So Etched on Britain’s Body Politic’

, 1 February 2023
Jonathan Lis explores whether telling the truth about leaving the EU would take the entire establishment down too

‘Britannia Chained: Brexit has Left the UK in a State of National Decline’

, 31 January 2023
Three years on from Britain's exit from the EU, the deep impact on our economy and national standing is now undeniable, writes Adam Bienkov

Brexit – Three Years On: Reconnecting the UK with Europe

, 31 January 2023
A Brexit supporter in Westminster in 2019. Photo: Lindsay Lipscombe/Alamy

More from the Byline Family