This is a two-part interview with a Ukrainian youth, a window view into the Senseless Russia-Ukraine War – Part I.
Editor’s Note: This is based on an interview and it is the opinion of the interviewee only.
No one knows what is in Vladimir Putin’s head.
The war Russia launched in Ukraine, which could go on indefinitely, is in fact a war Russia is conducting against the West, in general, and the United States in particular.
IX Global Baku Forum
Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is the South Caucuses’ magnet location where many international conferences and forums take place on many subjects and topics.
In June 2022 I attended the IX Global Baku Forum hosted by Nizami Ganjavi International Center, a cultural, non-political organization dedicated to the memory of the celebrated Azerbaijani poet, Nizami Ganjavi and to the study and dissemination of his works along the mission to build a dialogue and understanding between cultures and peoples in order to build more functional and inclusive societies.
The Forum, attended by many countries’ former presidents and prime ministers and many dignitaries, the designated topic of discussion was the latest war Russia launched on Ukraine. Each invitee had the opportunity to introduce his or her country and the challenges it faces in the global arena.
What caught my attention during the Forum’s last day was a young Ukrainian lady who spoke vividly and candidly about the war in Ukraine. Her tragic but hopeful story, herein below, has been shaken by emotions.
Eva is 18 years old. She is from Kyiv, Ukraine, and has recently graduated from Pechersk School International, in Kyiv. Since March 2022 Eva and her younger sister have been staying in Paris as refugees of war, launched on February 24, 2022. That was the day Russia invaded Ukraine and it has been devastating her country.
Due to the war, Eva received her graduation cap in Budapest, Hungary. The International School in Budapest opened its doors to them and her entire class – 30 students. They arrived and graduated there. It was a very emotional moment because they have not seen each other since the war began. She will soon attend the London School of Economics and Political Sciences where she plans to study international relations.
Eva is soft-spoken and confident, with a public speaking ability that comes from her experience in school theatre activities. Her interest in human rights, particularly women’s human rights, started at 16-17 and this interest caused her to start some projects related to the subject at school. She is also a volunteer with Ukrainian Women Congress as well as working with different charities, especially helping orphanages in Ukraine’s east.
Eva’s mother works in culture, specifically arts; Eva’s father worked in Ukraine for seven years for the European Commission.
Kateryna Yushchenko, the wife of Viktor Yushchenko, the third president of Ukraine from January 23, 2005, to February 25, 2010, invited Eva to join her and partake in the IX Global Baku Forum. There, she had the unique opportunity to be part of a public discussion panel, and that is where we met.
Eva caught my heart and attention with her well-spoken part on the panel during the Forum public discussion. Our interview took place a few weeks later when we both could be seated at the Zoom screen.
All About the War
Thanks to an electronically well-connected world, Eva gets her information about the war from the news, phone calls to people on the ground, photos, and videos.
The war Russia launched on Ukraine has been going on since 2014. In February and March 2014, Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula Ukrainian territory and subsequently annexed it. This event took place in the aftermath of the “Revolution of Dignity” and is part of the wider Russo-Ukrainian War, also known as the Maidan Revolution and the Ukrainian Revolution, which took place in Ukraine in February 2014, at the end of the Euromaidan. There were protests and deadly clashes between protesters and the Ukrainian capital Kyiv security forces that culminated in the ousting of elected President Viktor Yanukovych; it was the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian War, and the overthrow of the Ukrainian government.
“Russia’s intent was never to gain territory but to intimidate, dehumanize and humiliate Ukrainians, even to intimidate the entire world,” Eva claims.
Statistics from the Ukraine Deputy interior minister Yevhen Yenin indicate that since February 24, 2022, 17,614 Russian strikes hit Ukraine, of which only 300 hit military targets. This number is growing and only goes to show how much this war is not only about gaining territory.
Russian tactics are simple: whenever the Russians lose Ukrainian territory if they cannot have it they will do anything to destroy everything to the ground.
Russian Soldiers’ Appalling Inhumanity
Russian soldiers have been going to Ukrainian villages’ territory not only to gain territory; they go further and perform killing, abuse, and sexual violence. They torture Ukrainian civilians; they rape or kill children in front of their parents, or parents in front of their children. “Since it is impossible to believe that a person could behave this way, to this extent that makes one believe they are inhuman,” Eva comments.
Mass graves were found so far in Bucha, a city in Ukraine’s Kyiv Oblast, serving as the administrative center of Bucha Raion, and Irpin, a Hero City of Ukraine, located on the Irpin River in Bucha Raion, Kyiv Oblast. Both cities’ location is near the city of Kyiv, Ukraine’s Capital, in northern Ukraine.
Now known as “the Bucha massacre,” seen from photographic and video evidence, which emerged on April 1st, 2022, after Russian forces withdrew from the city.
According to Eva, it is the tip of the iceberg. Right now so much Ukrainian territory is occupied by the Russians and is out of bounds for Ukrainians. Some of the main Ukrainian cities that currently remain occupied are, Luhansk (Luhansk Oblast), Donetsk and Mariupol (Donetsk Oblast), Kherson (Kherson Oblast), and the entire Crimea region.
The Ukrainians’ greater fear is that when these territories are liberated more mass graves will be found and the horrendous stories will be even more horrendous.
“The Russian soldiers are cruel beyond comprehension; they do not possess humane character traits,” Eva states.
Russian soldiers use sexual violence as a weapon of war. Western media does not report what is really taking place. Eva thinks this is in order to shield the people in the west from seeing scenes that are so shocking and very difficult to process: seeing or reading about Russian soldiers being seen raping Ukrainian children in front of their parents or civilians being killed in the streets is difficult to watch.
Why Are Russian Soldiers So Inhuman?
War is ugly but not as ugly as the way Russians conduct it.
At the beginning of the war, many Ukrainians tried to convince themselves that the Russian soldiers who were sent to Ukraine, all young in their 20s, came from Russia’s rural areas, not from the large Russian cities. The people in those remote villages are not well enough connected to the Internet grid. Therefore, they were ill-informed and the well-known Russian propaganda machine affected these soldiers’ minds. At some point, propagandist media told the Russian population that Ukraine was sending biological weapons to kill them.
Some Ukrainians whose parents or grandparents lived through the Nazi and the Communist Russian eras and survived to tell, say that the Nazis were more humane than the Russian soldiers.
“It is not the first time Russia invades Ukraine and it is a known fact that the Russian soldier will go above and beyond the duty of a soldier.”
The fact is that many Russian soldiers go into Ukrainian villages and loot all they can. From photos and calls made by Russian soldiers, intercepted by Ukraine, in one case, a Russian soldier called home to tell his wife, “I just killed a Ukrainian family and I can bring to you a microwave;” the wife was happy about it. In another case, a Russian soldier called his wife, and while his friend was raping a Ukrainian woman he told his wife who said, “Oh, good she deserves it.”
When Ukrainians are told it is not the Russians, it is Putin, it offends the Ukrainians. It disregards the behavior of the Russian people, many of whom support and endorse this war. “It is painful,” Eva says. “For so many years it has been more than just Putin; it is the country that is behind him as well people who have a deep hatred for the Ukrainian people, a testimony given by the Russian soldiers who go to Ukrainian villages and kill, rape and loot with so much hate for the Ukrainian people.”
“This type of behavior is not only the result of Russian propaganda,” Eva stresses. “These Russian soldiers who come from remote small villages are of the opinion that what they were sent to do is a great mission and their ego makes them feel as if they are on the top of the world and they can do whatever they want to be praised for it upon their return home. So they go on their killing and stealing sprees, as their heart desires, and upon their return home they will be the heroes who de-Nazified Ukraine by killing small children and raping women.”
The question is does a soldier who comes from a remote Russian village and has hardly any education know what a Nazi is and what it means to de-Nazify? Probably not. “But to them all people in Ukraine are evil and they are going there as saviors, doing it for Russia,” asserts Eva.
Would a Russian Soldier Realize He Was Lied To?
Would Russian soldiers look at each other one day and say: we were lied to?
At the beginning of the war, videos showed Russian soldiers captured by Ukrainian soldiers appearing to be like scared children. They asked if they could call their parents back in Russia. They claimed that they were told they were called for a military exercise on the border with Ukraine and then they will return home. However, they were misguided with a lie.
Eva believes that this first line of young Russian soldiers who entered Ukraine was sent on purpose to be killed. They had no maps to know where to go with their tanks so after a few days their tanks ran out of fuel and got stuck. Videos showed Russian tanks stuck on the side of the roads. Eva gives the Russian soldiers the benefit of the doubt when she thinks that at the beginning of the war Russia sent so many young men who did not know what they were doing, nor knew why they were in Ukraine.
Nevertheless, the Russian soldiers who are still in Ukraine know perfectly well why they are there and why they are doing what they are doing. From the videos Eva watched, the extent of the violence, which she calls pure evil, is most difficult to comprehend. “Even on your worst enemy, not even on a Russian, you do not wish the evil perpetrated and has been seen in Bucha and Irpin which are both in the Kyiv Oblast region, close to Ukraine’s capital.”
Liberating Ukraine Territory Is the Goal, Russia Thinks Otherwise
Eva gets upset when she sees or hears everyone in the west complaining about gas and goods prices going up, while no one bothers to watch the atrocities perpetrated by the Russians. She says western media is no longer interested in the war in Ukraine.
For the Ukrainians in east Ukraine, living under Russian rule is not an option. The Ukrainians will seek to liberate that territory. They assume that at some point the West will try to push Ukraine to let some of the invaded territory remain under Russian control.
Some Ukrainians are talking about liberating Crimea, a Ukrainian territory conquered and annexed by Russia in a 2014 invasion. While Russia annexed Crimea and in return Russia received sanctions, the Chinese and Iran on the other side stepped in to fill all the gaps.
Eva thinks that “if back in 2014 European countries had kept the level of sanctions, we may not be here right now with this war, or at least at this scale.”
And Russian media already speaks about Moldova and Poland as being next on Russia’s targeted invasions list. Actually, it is all about bringing back the glory of the Soviet Union days or the Tsarist Empire.
Eva thinks that Ukraine’s neighbors, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Moldova, understand that Ukraine is acting as a buffer zone between them and Russia. Therefore, Ukraine needs to receive their help and support. This is not some faraway war; it is nearby and affects and endangers them as well.
Eva is sensible and patriotic. “Imagine if part of Poland or Germany was occupied and the Polish or German people were told to leave their homes to stop the war?”
Right now Eva’s uncle is fighting on the front line. Most Ukrainian soldiers know that there is a slim chance they will survive and return home. Nonetheless, for them, it does not matter because living under Russian-occupied Ukraine is never an option. Ukraine will never surrender to that because that means regression.
After the fall of the USSR Ukraine became independent. It has since developed and progressed a great deal while Russia stagnates with a Soviet mindset. It had brought Eva so much joy to see her country moving forward and showing progress and this war will set Ukraine back decades.
In part two of this essay I will give Eva’s perspective on the war geopolitics and some after thoughts. Look for “Ukraine War, Negotiations or Liberation End? – Part II.