26 February 2022
by Sergei Lukashevsky, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, director of the Sakharov Centre
Today in the heat of fires, in the rumble of explosions and the whistle of bullets, in blood and suffering, a real European Ukrainian nation is finally being forged.
For years, Russian propagandists have hammered into us that the Ukrainian state is weak. Literally a failed state. Perhaps they were even partially right, at least according to independent media and analysis. Low living standards, paltry pensions, even compared to Russian pensions. Strange, sometimes ridiculous political squabbles and intrigues. Influential and self-serving oligarchs.
But in these dark days it became finally clear that there was something more important in Ukraine, namely, a strong nation. A real European nation. It is not even a matter of commitment to democracy, but about cohesiveness and solidarity. A weak nation would not resist in such a way. It is not able to hold out in the face of a much more powerful adversary.
In Russia, there is once again a strong state. A state that knows how to concentrate its resources, save money, and equip an army. But the citizens of Russia, however, are a weak nation. A strong nation cannot allow its leader to unleash a war of aggression. The top officials of a strong nation do not sit like a bunch of frightened puppets in front of Karabas Barabas. It seems that even Mafiosi would behave with more dignity in front of their boss.
The Soviet Union was also a strong state, but when it fell apart, its weak nations did not come out to defend it. And it collapsed like a tree rotten from the inside. All these years I have been very loath to talk about the possible collapse of Russia. But right now, at the height of Putin’s military might, I would no longer rule it out.
The Russian state can defeat the Ukrainian state in this war. But it is already clear: Putin cannot defeat the Ukrainian people. His possible military victory would for certain be a pyrrhic victory. Putin (or his proxies) will have to govern a territory filled with [here followed a word that Facebook deemed “unacceptable to the community,” meaning a strong dislike]. Not a single dead Ukrainian soldier, civilian or even more so child will be forgotten. Families will keep the memory alive. Mothers will tell their children.
I understand that I write terrible words. But unfortunately, this is the truth that we will have to realize and accept just as we must accept the world of grayness, poverty and survival into which Russia will sink because of the sanctions imposed on it. And, unlike the Ukrainians, we will have no reason for pride or self-respect.
The Ukrainians, even if they lose the war, will defend their future. Putin, winning the battle, is destroying the future of his countrymen and women and their descendants. Our future.
The war must be stopped! Ukraine must be free!
Translated by Simon Cosgrove