Alexander Query: 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.
Ukraine’s Friend of the Week: Alexei Navalny, Russian opposition leader
The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as the proverb says.
It is particularly true for Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, 44, dubbed as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s most vociferous critic.
Navalny became gravely ill on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow on Aug. 20. He was treated at the Charité Hospital in Berlin and was discharged in late September.
When he woke up from the coma because of the poisoning, he immediately pointed the finger at Putin, after traces of Novichok were found in Navalny’s body.
The infamous Novichok poison was developed by Soviet scientists during the Cold War and used in March 2018 to attack former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom’s Salisbury.
Recovering but emaciated, Navalny compared his sick appearance to a creature from “The Lord of the Rings” on Instagram on Sept. 23, but he is rather the Kremlin’s Voldemort as Putin still refuses to mention his name in public.
The Russian authorities have denied responsibility for the attack. However, while they chose to dismiss Navalny’s accusation, it cannot sweep away the political consequences of the attack.
Navalny’s poisoning made international headlines and caused unanimous condemnation among Western leaders who threatened Moscow with a new set of sanctions and putting Russia’s uncompleted Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline at greater risk.
The UK, France and Germany announced on Oct. 7 they would impose targeted sanctions on Russia. However, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Sept. 6 he did not rule out actions related to Nord Stream 2 and he didn’t specify whether his government is planning to.
“I hope that the Russians do not force us to change our position on Nord Stream,” Maas said.
The $11-billion-worth pipeline is meant to deliver Russian gas to Europe, but the project is widely seen as Kremlin’s economic weapon, which would give it leverage on the European Union, as well as weaken the Ukrainian economy, which is estimated to lose $3 billion annually in lost transit fees.
Ukraine has criticized the project for years. Very recently on Sept. 4, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for the adoption of new sanctions and the ban on the construction of Nord Stream 2.
If the project is finished and Russian gas starts its transition to Europe, Kremlin will get an additional source of income to fund both oppression inside the country and its aggression towards other countries including Ukraine.
Navalny’s poisoning is yet another wake-up call for Western countries that needed to grasp the danger of Putin’s imperial dreams and understand Ukraine’s wariness.
However, while he has long been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side, Navalny’s fight against Putin should not gloss over his nationalism. In 2014, he said in an interview that although Crimea was “seized” with violations of international law, “the reality is that Crimea is now part of Russia.”
“Crimea is ours,” he said, and so far he has not amended this stance. Such views would rater make him Ukraine’s foe.
But Navalny’s unwavering opposition to Putin, Ukraine’s number one enemy, is worth recognition.
Ukraine’s Foe of the Week: Gerhard Schröder, former chancellor of Germany
Gloves are off between this week’s friend Alexei Navalny and Gerhard Schröder, after the former chancellor of Germany cast doubts on Kremlin’s responsibility in the poisoning of Russia’s opposition leader.
In an interview with German newspaper Bild, Navalny called Schröder “Putin’s errand boy,” a title Schröder can put on his wall alongside the Kyiv Post’s Order of Lenin.
Schröder is no stranger to provocative statements: On May 26, he referred to Ukraine’s Ambassador in Germany Andriy Melnyk as a midget in his podcast, causing an uproar among the Ukrainian officials.
Before that, in March 2018, Pavlo Klimkin, who was Ukraine’s foreign minister at the time, called Schröder “Kremlin’s most important lobbyist” and suggested putting European sanctions against him over his pro-Russian campaigning.
However, Schröder doesn’t disguise he is on the Russian payroll. He is a chairman of one of the Nord Stream’s boards and a chairman of the board of supervisors of Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft.
Before that, Schröder served as German chancellor between 1998 and 2005. Once praised for keeping Germany out of the Iraq war, he has become a highly discredited figure since he retired from politics.
Before leaving office in 2005, he authorized the controversial Nord Stream pipeline project in Germany and took up a chairmanship at the company controlled by Russia’s Gazprom a few weeks later – a move largely perceived as a conflict of interest.
The project is heavily criticized by Ukraine, which regards it as Russia’s attempt to put its Trojan horse in Europe.
Upon completion, the pipeline would allow Russia to export gas to Western Europe through the Baltic Sea while also weakening the Ukrainian economy.
Schröder, who famously called Putin a “flawless democrat” in 2004, also warned the EU and the U.S. against implementing further sanctions against Kremlin following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.
In an interview published last May, Schröder went even further and called for the sanctions against Russia to be stopped, a political position that makes him a perfect candidate for the Kyiv Post’s foe of the week.
(c) Kyiv Post