Hard to believe, but the war in Ukraine began with a row over language. Here’s how it all got going.
In 2004, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology conducted an opinion poll throughout Ukraine and found that the Russian language is used at home by an average of about 45% of the country’s citizens. Indeed, Russian speakers are a majority in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country.
For example, 97% of the population of Crimea speak Russian in their daily lives even those who are ethnic Ukrainians. In Donetsk that figure is 93%, in Luhansk 89%, Odesa 85%, Zaporizhzhia 81% and Kharkiv 74%, according to the Institute’s survey. Russian speakers are a small minority in the north-west where the second language is Polish.
Many of the Russian speakers, especially the older ones, have difficulties filling out forms and conducting correspondence with government offices in Ukrainian. This is because, while it is similar to Russian in its structure and grammar, the Ukrainian language contains many loan words from Polish and is in fact a separate language. In 2012, after years of political agitation in Kiev and in the south and east of Ukraine, the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law made Russian an official language of Ukraine, meaning that it could be used for official correspondence and on official forms and notices.
How it all started
In early 2014, democratically-elected President Yanukovych was overthrown in a coup sponsored by the USA. On 23 February 2014, the first legislative act of the new unelected government was to abolish the law of 2012 that had made Russian an official language. This enraged Russian speakers throughout Ukraine; regions that were predominantly Russian-speaking continued to use Russian for government business in their localities.
The new unelected government in Kiev reacted in anger by beginning a fierce repression of Russian-speaking regions, such as Donetsk, Lugansk, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov and Odessa. The row over language blossomed into a bloody war and some horrific massacres of Russian-speaking populations in, for example, Mariupol and Odessa were carried out by the Ukrainian armed forces.
In May 2014, contrary to advice from Vladimir Putin, the Russian speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk (collectively known as the Donbas) each carried out referenda on whether the two regions should be become autonomous republics within Ukraine. They were not seeking independence from Ukraine but wished to become autonomous within Ukraine so they could use Russian as their official language.
In the civil war between Kiev and the Donbas, the latter fought using guerrilla tactics against the inertia of the Ukrainian forces who were using an old-fashioned top-down command structure in their operations, similar to the initial strategy of the invading Russian forces in 2022. No Russian forces took part in these opening rounds of the war in Ukraine.
According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Russians did not deliver weapons or other military equipment to the autonomists. They were, in fact, armed by Russian-speaking units of the Ukrainian army that defected to the autonomous regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, along with their tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft guns.
Minsk Agreements I and II
Defeat forced Kiev to commit to the Minsk Agreement in September 2014. This obliged Kiev to open negotiations on home-rule with the autonomists. But after signing that agreement, instead of entering into discussions with the autonomists, Kiev launched a ‘anti-terrorist operation’ against the Donbas. A massive defeat at Debaltsevo in Donetsk forced Kiev to sign Minsk II in February 2015.
Since 2014 Russia has been continuously demanding implementation of the Minsk agreements but has always refused to participate in the negotiations which it views as an internal Ukrainian matter. But the West has tried ceaselessly to bring the Russians and Ukrainians together through the Normandy contact group of four states, France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, so called as they met on the sidelines of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II in Normandy.
It should be noted that OSCE observers never found the slightest trace of Russian troops in the Donbas before February 2022. In addition, an American intelligence map published by the Washington Post on 3 December 2021 does not show Russian units in the Donbas.
The Ukrainian Army
In October 2015, the Ukrainian army was in an appalling state. It had been badly weakened by corruption and no longer enjoyed the support of the population. Conscripts were failing to report for duty, suicides and desertions were rife, and young Ukrainians refused to fight in the Donbas and preferred to emigrate instead.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence turned to NATO for help. The North Atlantic Treaty Alliance agreed to bring Ukraine’s undisciplined and poorly equipped army up to NATO standards in skills, discipline and equipment. Training and donations of Western equipment began almost immediately.
To compensate for its lack of soldiers, the government resorted to paramilitary militias and by 2020 they made up about 40% of the Ukrainian armed forces. They were armed, financed and trained by the USA, Canada, the UK and France and, since 2014, had been operating with Western support in the Donbas where they were guilty off numerous crimes against civilians including massacres, rape and torture.
These militias are composed of violent and brutal men who are extremely anti-Semitic. Labelling them as neo-Nazi is Russian propaganda according to most Western media. But that is not the opinion of the Times of Israel and the Center for Counterterrorism at the West Point Academy.
The Azov is the best known of these militias. Its emblem is similar to that of the German Second SS Das Reich Panzer Division which is venerated in Ukraine for liberating Kharkov from the Soviets in 1943. This bunch of heroes later carried out the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane in France in 1944 in which 643 civilians, including non-combatant men, women, and children, were murdered in reprisals for the activities of the French resistance.
The outbreak of War
On 24 March 2021, Ukrainian President Zelensky issued a decree ordering Crimea to be recaptured and sent his forces to the southern Ukraine. By October 2021, Ukraine was conducting air operations in the Donbas using drones. These attacks included at least one strike against a fuel depot in Donetsk. The media in the USA reported this attack but the media in Europe did not. There was no condemnation in Europe or America of these violations of the Minsk agreement.
Gorlivka is a regional city in Donetsk. Its economy is based mainly on coal mining and the chemical industry. On 18 January 2022, Donbas fighters intercepted saboteurs who spoke Polish and were equipped with Western equipment that would enable them to create chemical incidents in the city. They may have been mercenaries of the CIA. Reports of sabotage in the Donbas continued to come in but were never reported in the European press.
On 7 February 2022, Macron of France reassured President Putin that he was committed to the Minsk agreements. He repeated this reassurance the next day after meeting President Zelensky. On 11 February, at a meeting in Europe, the Ukrainians refused to implement the Minsk agreement, apparently under pressure from the USA. It would have been obvious to Putin that Macron’s promises were worthless and that the West was not prepared to enforce the Minsk agreements as it had guaranteed it would do when the agreements were signed.
The Ukrainian build up outside the Donbas continued. On 25 February the Russian Parliament (Duma) asked Putin to recognise the independence of the Republics but he refused initially.
As early as 16 February, President Biden knew that the Ukrainians had begun shelling the civilian population of the Donbas intensely yet failed to intervene or at least condemn it. As a result of this shelling, Putin would have found himself between a rock and a hard place … to stand by and watch the Russian-speaking peoples of the Donbas being massacred or to intervene militarily and suffer the consequences of Western outrage.
As Putin explained in a speech on 21 February, he could invoke the international obligation of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ to justify intervention. He further explained that whatever its nature or scale, sending his army in would result in a barrage of sanctions against Russia. The price Russia would have to pay, he said, would be the same whether he limited his intervention to the Donbas or went all the way to put pressure on Europe concerning the neutrality of Ukraine.
On the same day Putin recognised the independence of the Donbas republics and signed treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with them. But the heavy artillery bombardment of the Donbas continued unabated as if Zelensky were goading the Russians to invade.
On 23 February both Donetsk and Lugansk asked for military assistance. On 24 February Putin invoked Article 51 of the UN Charter which provides for mutual military assistance in the framework of a defensive alliance.
European intelligence services were aware in 2021 that the Ukrainian army was preparing to attack the Donbas but this was never made public. To make Russia’s invasion look totally illegitimate in the eyes of the Western public, the powers that be in the West deliberately hid the fact that the war actually started on 16 February with Ukraine’s heavy bombardment of the Donbas region.
So there you have it.
The war started because the central government in Kiev took away the language rights of more than 40% of its citizens, contrary to the values of the European Union it was seeking to join. If Ukraine had been a member of the EU in 2014, it would have been subjected to severe disapprobation by the European Union.
Western intelligence services had a very accurate picture of the situation that was developing in Ukraine. But the politicians who decide policy disregarded their reports. It seems that some Western policy-makers wanted Russia to invade.
The war had several major known causes of the war that were brushed aside (deliberately it seems) in the Western media:
- The eastward expansion of NATO,
- The desire of the US and NATO to make Ukraine a bulwark against Russia’ western border,
- Ukraine’s refusal to implement the Minsk agreements,
- The failure by the guarantors, France and Germany, to insist that Ukraine implement the Minsk agreements,
- A lack of condemnation in this regard from the European Union,
- The unceasing attacks on the population of the Donbas from 2014 onwards and
- The increased intensity of those attacks in mid-February 2022,
- The EU’s failure to react and condemn these attacks.
In other words, the West, especially the USA, France, and the EU as well as Ukraine itself created the conditions that lead to Russia’s invasion.
Europe showed great compassion for the several million refugees from Ukraine it welcomed. If Europe had shown the same compassion for the millions of refugees from the Russian-speaking populations of the Donbas who, to avoid being slaughtered by their own government in Kiev, sought refuge in Russia from 2014 onwards, Russia’s invasion would probably never have happened.
- Internet search
- Centre Francais de Recherche sur le Renseignment … Bulletin de Documentation #27 / Mars 2022 … La situation militaire en Ukraine … Jacques Baud