As Ukraine’s First Lady demands a Nuremberg trial for Putin, could we see the defeat of the Russian Army and the CCP in the same year?
TIM STANLEY 29 November 2022 • 7:43pm
Olena Zelenska is immaculate: blond hair tied back, grey coat with black collar and black heels. She almost never smiles. She is an ordinary woman married to a comedian who, by a twist of fate, was elected president of Ukraine. And then the Russians invaded. Her job now is to tell the world about the war crimes.
Parliamentarians greeted her in Committee Room 14, among them Penny Mordaunt and Keir Starmer – plus Boris Johnson, a defeated Winston paying his respects to Mme De Gaulle. We Brits are not the only ones with long memories of the Second World War. Mrs Zelenska began in English, quoting a teenage boy who endured the Blitz. What London went through 80 years ago, she said, my people are going through now.
The rest was in Ukrainian, translated for us through erratic ear-pieces – last used, I think, when Joe Biden came to visit – and detailed what the Russians have done, their bombs, their tortures, their mindless destruction. They left a mine hidden inside a piano, she said: no respect for life, no sanctity of culture. It is not enough for Ukraine to win, “we must have justice”, just as the Allies had their Nuremberg trials. It’s a mark of how badly Putin’s invasion has gone that Kyiv is already talking about what happens after he’s lost, though one suspects he’s more likely to wind up in the Lubyanka than the Hague.
Is it possible that we’ll see the defeat of the Russian Army and the collapse of the Chinese Communist Party in the same year? Authoritarians can only squeeze their people so far, and liberal democracy, for all its greedy bankers and silly pronouns, still has the moral upper hand. Yet one feels impotent in the face of such evil.
In the Commons, MPs asked the Government what it plans to do about the BBC journalist who was arrested in the middle of a Shanghai protest – to protect him from Covid, explained the Chinese police, who apparently tried to beat the virus out of him.
“The case against the journalist was thin, to say the least,” said foreign minister David Rutley, earning him exasperated looks. Backbenchers want to know what Rishi Sunak’s new policy towards Beijing – “robust pragmatism” – actually means. It has an echo of surrender in it, hand-in-glove with the Government’s domestic strategies, upbeat pessimism and abundant poverty.
Mrs Zelenska ended her visit with a tour of a new exhibit in Portcullis House titled, ominously, “An Incomplete Map of Russian War Crimes.” She had told MPs and peers that the youngest victim of rape in Ukraine was four, the oldest 85. I can hardly believe it. I don’t want to believe it. Not of Russia, land of Tolstoy and Pushkin – but I suppose many once said the same about the Germans and, as the First Lady pointed out, we have more than enough evidence to convict.
There is a photo in Portcullis House of an old woman killed in the street by shelling. She lies among fallen apples.