When Vladimir Putin talks of a “war with a noble mission”, as he did on Tuesday, he somehow overlooks the ignoble strife in Ukraine ~ the hundreds of deaths, the possible use of chemical weapons, not to forget the allegations of rape and brutality against civilians.
Amidst the ever so darkening war clouds, civilians are fleeing the eastern areas ahead of the anticipated offensive. The guns continue to boom and the battle for the southern port city of Mariupol is inching towards a decisive phase. It is hard not to wonder what the “noble mission” is all about. Speaking on the 61st anniversary of the Soviet Union putting the first man into space, Mr Putin spoke defiantly despite western abhorrence of his actions and the imposition of a cache of sanctions on his country.
Asked by space agency staff if the operation in Ukraine will achieve its goals, Mr Putin replied: “Yes, if the goals are absolutely clear and noble. We didn’t have a choice. It was the right decision.” The Russian President has cast what he calls a “special military operation” as a confrontation with the United States which he says is threatening the country by meddling in its backyard. The West has called it a “brutal land grab of a sovereign country”.
The nature of the war since 24 February would suggest that a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people have been forced out of their homes. Cities have turned into rubble and thousands of people, many of them civilians, have either been killed or are injured. After Russian troops got bogged down in the face of Ukrainian resistance, they abandoned their attempt to capture Kiev, the capital. Nonetheless, they are said to be redoubling their efforts in the east. Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, has urged residents to evacuate using the agreed humanitarian corridor.
“It’s far more scary to remain and burn in your sleep from a Russian shell,” he wrote on social media. “Evacuate, with every day the situation is getting worse.” There can be no contrived illusion about the grim reality, far less to call the war a “noble mission”. This is to ignore reality. Of course, a humanitarian corridor has also been agreed from Mariupol, but in point of fact, Ukraine bears witness to one of the worst humanitarian tragedies.
Ukraine’s President Zelensky has pleaded for more weapons from the West, even South Korea. This, it is hoped, will end the siege of Mariupol and stave off the expected eastern offensive. “Unfortunately, we are not getting as much as we need to end this war faster,” Zelensky said. He has urged the European Union to impose sanctions on all Russian banks and oil and to set a deadline for ending the import of Russian gas. But in this war, there are villians on all sides.