Friday 21 March 2014

Back in the USSR....

When I visited Ukraine in 2009 I was struck by the disjointed nature of the country. We were in the town of Lviv, a beautiful place that looked towards the grand cities of Central Europe. The easy way to get into an argument was to call it 'Lvov' by accident. Lviv was the national 'Ukrainian' name for the city, and Lvov was the 'Russian Ukrainian' Name.

Everywhere we went, we were reminded of the 'independence' of Ukraine, and the fierce sense of self determination since the fall of the old soviet union. The most famous restaurant in Lviv was extraordinary. Before you were seated, you had to shoot an air rifle at a target with Stalin's head on it. We were constantly reminded that a third of the population died under Russian rule in the 1950's.

Quite frankly, it was clear that the gap between the Ukrainian nationalists and the Russian nationalists was always going to end in bloodshed. I'm actually just surprised that it has been less violent than it has been. Russia had all the military cards, and could easily taken much more of Ukrainian territory than just the Crimea.

The West is making noises of course, but they are clearly not up for a serious struggle over the annexed area - Crimea is clearly and undeniably back in the USSR.

The real question will be, can Ukraine become a stable 'European' nation free from the fascist element that were so clearly part of the coup against the elected government. We hope and pray that peace can be restored soon. Ukraine is one of the most beautiful countries I've ever visited and the people are hospitable and proud. I'm quietly confident that the situation will improve. And if the people of Crimea choose to be part of Putin's mafia style empire - more fool them - but it is simply not worth losing any more lives over.

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