Every January 22 marks Unity Day in Ukraine. How did the country celebrate this year?
In Kiev, the Ukraine government is calling for a truce. The prime minister, Arseniy Yatsunyuk, laid wreaths at a ceremonial rally and called attention to the continuing turmoil.
“I believe that the Unity, reunification of Ukrainian lands, which took place in 1919, will have its future – we will return Crimea, and control over Donetsk and Luhansk. Russian military aggression, which is supervised by the Kremlin, won’t be successful and it will fail, like all the past occupations and aggressions against Ukraine,” stressed the Head of Government.
He emphasized that the Russian terrorists had again made a heinous act against humanity, “The responsibility for it should be borne by the Russian Federation. It is vital to immediately execute an agreement for ceasefire, the withdrawal of forces. The most essential thing how to establish peace within the country is to remove the Russian military and Russian gangsters from Ukrainian territory. And then Ukrainian Unity and Ukrainian unification will be restored”.
In Donetsk, fighting continued as “pro-russian separatists” and Ukraine military forces clashed along an imaginary ceasefire line. There was no ceasefire. The residents of the area are left with no basic services, no banking or monetary support, no reliable food system and watch in horror as the turmoil spreads across their countryside. There is now reason to believe chemical weapons were also used in the destruction of the Donetsk airport. The Ukrainian military was forced to retreat.
Aleksandr Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, said in a meeting with university students that he had no interest in discussing or pursuing a truce with Kiev. Meanwhile, advances by the separatists continue as more military troops and equipment pour across the border.
“Since we’re attacking, there is no sense to have peace talks now. We’ve made this mistake before. It’s not decent to repeat it,” he said.
According to the Russian state news agency RIA, he went on to say: “There will be no attempts from our side to talk about the ceasefire. We will be on the offensive until we reach the border of Donetsk region.”
In a speech given Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko made the unsubstantiated claim that 9,000 Russian soldiers were currently fighting with the separatists in the east and appealed for more military aid from Europe and the United States. Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, refused to confirm the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine insisting instead that there had been “an increase in Russian equipment inside eastern Ukraine.” As it has in the past, Russia denied the accusations that its soldiers are fighting in eastern Ukraine.
He went on to say; “The solution is very simple – stop supplying weapons … withdraw the troops and close the border. Very simple peace plan. If you want to discuss something different, it means you are not for peace; you are for war.”
Meanwhile in Moscow, Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said that it was up to Kiev to stop fighting, and called for an immediate ceasefire. He also denied that Russian troops were active in Ukraine, claiming no proof had been offered. We beg to differ.
The “pro-russian separatists” are clearly Russian troops and/or paid militants who have crossed the border from Russia to continue Putin’s land grab within Ukraine. Crimea is not enough; he now wants the major seaport southeast of Donetsk and all land in-between.
When the separatists first appeared in Crimea last year, Putin claimed anyone can purchase the uniforms seen worn, and anyone can look exactly like those separatists. We ask where, in Ukraine, a civilian would purchase tanks, rocket launchers, troop cargo vehicles and airplanes to be used in their everyday lives. Lavrov and Putin both claim those accusing Russia of being involved “have no proof.” Apparently we all suffer the same degenerative eye disease.
Sanctions from the US and EU and falling gas prices have placed Russia’s economy on the brink of collapse. As grumblings continue to develop within Russia, we believe Putin’s moves in Ukraine are done not only to regain land lost that was formerly held by Russia, but Vladimir needs popularity points, and this is an easy way to achieve that before his next election cycle.
A year ago at this time we were discussing Maidon Square and the events in Kiev. It seems Ukraine has many more days before “Unity Day” will be celebrated in the spirit that the Ukrainians can truly feel joyfully united with. That day will not come soon enough.