Illia Ponomarenko: Ukraine’s Friend & Foe of the Week

Editor’s Note: This feature separates Ukraine’s friends from its enemies. The Order of Yaroslav the Wise has been given since 1995 for distinguished service to the nation. It is named after the Kyivan Rus leader from 1019-1054, when the medieval empire reached its zenith. The Order of Lenin was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union, whose demise Russian President Vladimir Putin mourns. It is named after Vladimir Lenin, whose corpse still rots on the Kremlin’s Red Square, more than 100 years after the October Revolution he led.

Friend of the Week Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki

Pecunia non olet (“money doesn’t stink”) — that is what Emperor Vespasian supposedly told those who used to say that levying taxes on Rome’s grand sewage system was a disgusting business. 

2,000 years on, some European legislation is still demonstrating venerable levels of pragmatism in pursuing economic growth at any price. And some of the deals they strive for smell no better than public toilets of the Eternal City in ancient times. 

No matter what stunts Moscow has pulled over the last few years, some European capitals, namely Berlin, won’t withdraw from their grand project with the Kremlin, the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline across the Baltic Sea.

Russia’s atrocities are spread all over the world map as it is responsible for: invasions in Crimea and eastern Donbas, intervention in Syria, attempted coup d’etat in Montenegro, attack in Salisbury, support of dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko in Belarus, and now the confirmed poisoning of  Russian opposition Alexey Navalny. 

Yet, nothing can persuade Angela Merkel of Germany, Russia’s top economic partner, into finally making a fateful decision and halting the construction of the $10 billion pipeline, which is close to being completed. The German government keeps expressing deep concerns, decrying the attempted assassination, yet money still seems to have a stronger hold over many of Germany’s bureaucrats than disgust and fear.

Nonetheless, reasonable voices among European leaders still make themselves heard.

As it was confirmed that Navalny had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent used by Russian secret services, as well as in the wake of the Kremlin’s possible intervention in Belarus, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sept. 8 asserted that Germany should finally give up on Nord Stream 2.

“This is the ultimate signal for the German government to halt the Russian-German project,” the Polish official told Bloomberg TV.

“I believe that after the Navalny incident this should happen inherently.”

Poland, along with Ukraine and other gas transit nations, will inevitably sustain heavy losses as a result of Nord Steam 2’s completion. Ukraine alone is expected to annually lose at least $2 billion in natural gas transit income due to Russia’s new pipeline to Europe.

And this also is going to be a severe strategic political setback as European economies will become even more dependent on Russian gas supplies and therefore on the political will of the Kremlin. 

Even now Europe is ready to turn a blind eye on many issues Russia does against its neighbors and the West. One can only guess what is yet to come should Berlin and Moscow complete this dangerous project that would change the power balance in Europe for decades. 

Ukraine – an immediate target of Russia’s expansionist appetite – also cannot help but to fiercely oppose the project. 

Yet, the voices of reason often do not find a kind soul in the European Union. 

Those who oppose Germany’s deal with the devil are definitely on the same page with Ukraine’s national interests — and the whole Western world — in the long run.

Therefore, the Kyiv Post has no doubt about announcing Morawiecki as Ukraine’s Friend of the Week.

In contrast with some of his counterparts in the West, he truly stands up to the virtues represented by the Order of Yaroslav the Wise.

Foe of the Week: Foreign mercenaries fighting against Ukraine 

Starting from the very dawn of history, there have always been those ready to fight and kill in someone else’s wars for nothing but money and passion. 

Mercenaries are very much alive and well today — and in Russia’s war against Ukraine, it has demonstrated some of its weirdest and ugliest forms. 

In this war, Russia made mercenaries as effective and cheap weapons. In 2014, thousands of militants from all across the world rushed to Donbas for a crusade to stop Ukraine from escaping the Kremlin’s sphere of influence.

The geography of this torrent is staggering. 

Apart from Russia, there have been nationals of over 30 countries fighting in eastern Ukraine.

In a recent interview with Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, Ukraine’s Deputy Prosecutor General Diunduz Mamedov asserted that militants used to come to Donbas from many European countries such as France, Spain, the Czech Republic, Serbia and Moldova. 

Just recently the Ukrainian law enforcers also reported having issued indictments against nationals of Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, Georgia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Germany, over their involvement in hostilities against Ukraine.

Moreover, according to Ukrainian investigations, at least 16 militants came to fight from as far as from Brazil and an unspecified number of individuals from Chile. 

It is a stunning thing to understand that several dozen mercenaries agreed to come from Latin America, from across half of the planet to fight against a country they would have a hard time finding on a map.

Some militants from beyond the post-Soviet space made a name for themselves. Anyone involved in the war in some form knows the name of Serbian sniper Deyan Berich or Brazilian mercenary Rafael Lusvarghi, who was captured as he was trying to leave Ukraine via Kyiv and was later returned to Russia during a prisoner swap.

As the statistics show, a huge part of foreign militants have come not from post-Soviet Russian satellites but European democracies and NATO member nations.

It is true that many of them came to fight against Ukraine because of their political views and beliefs or due to being delusional by Russian propaganda. Interestingly, Russian-backed ranks saw militants from both far-left (such as the Interbrigade movement established by Russian National Bolsheviks) and far-right (such as the Rusich Company formed of neo-Nazis) extremes of the political spectrum. 

Many of them came to fight for what they believed was an alternative to liberal democracy and capitalism, and against a country, which, according to Russian TV news, had suddenly embraced the Nazi ideology and initiated a genocide against part of its population. 

The years of war in Donbas have clearly demonstrated that his picture painted by the Kremlin propaganda is not even close to reality. Over these years, anyone willing to see has removed the veil of deception and discovered that Russia is directly financing this war and sends its regular troops to occupy the region. Therefore, it is mind-boggling to find out that these militants are fighting against a freedom-loving nation that seeks a democratic, prosperous future with the West, and that they decide to spread the agenda of the Kremlin’s warmongering mafia.

And yet, many of these foreign military tools still stay in the ranks of Russian-backed militants today, while even many of Russia’s warlords have given up on their old ideas that brought them to the Donbas.

It is true though that some foreigners have fought on Ukraine’s side as well, having joined either volunteer battalions or regular military formations. And, taking into account the harsh conditions of service in Ukraine’s military, they all mostly come for virtues they believe in. 

But then again, the story has been crystal clear on who has ended up on the wrong side of history in the Donbas war. 

Most definitely, any foreign mercenary taking up arms against Ukraine’s democracy, historical choice, and way of life, regardless of his or her motives, deserves nothing but being fought back and then prosecuted against with the utmost rigor of the law.

And there is no doubt that those from the Western who are making a choice in favor of the Kremlin’s corrupt oligarchic mafia also deserve to be called the enemy of the whole democratic world.

(c) KyivPost

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