21 March 2022
by Aleksandr Podrabinek
Without question, the war against Ukraine will remain one of the most shameful pages in Russian history. The unprovoked attack on that country removes this war from the category of other wars of aggression of the recent past—against Finland, Poland, Afghanistan—for the simple reason that in the totalitarian Soviet Union there was absolutely no possibility of preventing the Communist regime’s decisions.
ALL RUSSIAN CITIZENS ARE GUILTY
In today’s Russia, it is still possible to protest the government’s actions, but the protests have been too small for the regime to pay them any attention. Russia is going to have to cleanse itself long and hard from the criminal acts of Russia’s current regime, probably for more than one generation. There’s nothing even to discuss here. The national guilt rests on all Russian citizens, both those who support the aggression and those who are silent, those who managed to leave and even those who protest.
Admission of guilt does not take away the unpleasant questions, though. The Ukrainian army is steadfastly resisting the Russian invasion, the number of Ukrainian patriots who have perished runs into the thousands, the refugees into the millions, the largest cities are besieged and many are destroyed, and civilians are going to die, including children. The calamities that have befallen Ukraine due to Russia’s guilt are innumerable. Diplomatic relations have been broken off. Ukraine is receiving major international support, weapons, and money—and all of it is going for the needs of defence against the aggressor.
At the same time, Ukraine is maintaining trade and economic relations with Russia. How is that possible? How are we to understand that? Supplies of Russian gas sent via Ukraine to Eastern and Western Europe are continuing uninterrupted. Since the start of the war they have actually increased and approached their maximum level under the transit contract. In early March, as much as 109 million cubic metres of Russian natural gas was pumped through Ukraine’s gas transport system per day. I won’t try to calculate what proportion of these deliveries is being sold at spot prices and what part at contract ones, but in any case we are talking about Russian profits in the tens of millions of dollars a day.
THEY ARE PROTECTING THE GAS PIPELINE
What is surprising is that from the Sudzha and Sokhranovka gas-metering stations at the entrance into Ukraine and all the way to the borders of Slovakia and Hungary, the main gas pipelines, Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod and Soyuz, are intact and undamaged. And this despite intensive military actions all around. Some gas distribution stations that send gas into the cities and villages of Ukraine have been destroyed, but when it comes to supplies to Europe, all is in order. The occupiers casually opened fire on the Zaporozhie nuclear power plant, but in no case on the gas pipeline. Natural gas is sacred. It is the nation’s wealth and trump card.
Understandably, the transit of Russian natural gas sends considerable revenues to Ukraine’s state budget, about 3 billion dollars a year. But after all, the Russian budget is replenished to a significant degree by gas exports, and about a quarter of Russia’s entire state budget goes to military expenditures. So it turns out that Ukraine is partly financing the war against itself.
Naturally, there are trade agreements. Understandably, not just Russia but Ukraine, too, has obligations to its European partners. The European countries may well be putting pressure on Ukraine, stipulating for themselves uninterrupted gas imports. By the way, weren’t these questions the real reason for the seemingly quite pointless prewar visits to Moscow by President Macron and Chancellor Scholz?
I have no desire to read coffee grounds, to say nothing of getting into conspiracy theories, but these questions demand answers. Ukraine is going through diffiuclt times, and there can be dozens of reasons for various decisions. There is probably an explanation in this strange trading with the enemy in the heat of war, too. I’d like to understand it.
Translated by Marian Schwartz