Two years of War in Ukraine: we are forgetting what really matters

by Diana Ecaterina Borcea, a Romanian native who is also a first year War Studies undergraduate at King’s College London. Her main interests in the research of international relations cover subjects like security and conflict in Eastern Europe, history of diplomacy & conflicts, military strategy and war in international order.

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An Ukrainian man protesting in Moscow against war in Ukraine holding the message “No To War”.

At the beginning of 2014, the world’s headlines were bursting with the events of the striking continental crisis in Ukraine. Ever since the dismissal of President Viktor Yanukovych, the unstable situation in Crimea received all the focus in the media, which shed light on every single step in the process of disbanding an independent, rightful European state. From the 20th of February 2014 (when almost 100 people died in Kiev in less than 48 hours[1]) until March of 2015, when the bottom line was drawn, while the UN was estimating that almost 6,000 people were killed over the whole Ukrainian crisis, the focus was on Kiev. The world was either following the mourning of the irreversible tragic deaths or watching the political moves of the state and the rebels. However, after March 2015, the media seem to have diverted their attention away from the events in Ukraine for multiple reasons, leaving a degree of uncertainty and a lack of insight into what has actually been happening in the Eastern European country in the last three months.

A straight-up answer, coming from the very precise reports would be casualties[2]. Since the Minsk (Belarus) talks between Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France (12th February 2015), someone has died every day in the Crimean conflict zone. What is more, around the separatist line of control, there have been daily hundreds of explosions reported by a monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).[3] Considering these facts, the war is far from being over and according to the members of the Ukrainian line of control, it’s just a matter of timing for the separatist groups to strike back in force, as they cannot operate in full force continuously. In addition to this, few are able to point out that the veil of silence which has recently taken over the war might be due to Russia’s need to maintain better relations with the West, allowing a period of smoldering strife, which is meant to shadow the disastrous effects the separatists’ actions have had on the whole area. Does it really work?

Looking at the latest headlines related to the Ukrainian war, one might see that the world is not as interested in Crimea as it used to be. Apart from a few articles of a striking transparency an engagement of the armed forces that have revealed the real tensioned situation on the frontline, it’s either the media not covering the bleeding reality that’s aching the whole country or the people not paying enough attention to it. It might be that people have become unnaturally used to the shock of death and catastrophe, and given the extremely revolting past events (the MH17 flight knockdown[4]), this might construct an understandable justification for the lower level of focus and impact of the Crimean War. This hypothesis added to the Freudian crowd mentality theory (the moral center of consciousness is deposed by the larger mass, leading to rarer complex emotions, especially in the event of repeated pain and shock[5]) might explain why the reactions to daily deaths and violent incidents are not much of news for masses nowadays, especially for the local civilians who have gotten used to living in a constant state of violence. However, this does not seem enough to justify the lack of reaction to the shell incident in earlier this year (April 2016), when two shells fell near a couple of vehicles in south Donetsk, killing four civilians, including a pregnant woman.[6] Regardless of the OSCE reports, which highlighted the involvement of both separatist and Ukrainian sides in the incident, it still was one tragic moment, which caused the loss of innocent lives. In the official point of view, the shell mission might represent the beginning of a new stage in the war, as worrying as the rest of the siege, according to Ertugrul Arpakan, the OSCE monitor chief.[7] With such an alarming statement coming from the very head of OSCE, how can the Ukrainian War really be forgotten?

In spite of all the collective numbness, the voice of the frontline soldiers seems to have echoed louder recently. For them, the endless discussions and the Minsk agreements only represent an official background image, essentially incomparable to the real danger of war. While the rest of the world might have forgotten about the siege in Crimea, the armed forces are still fighting, risking and losing their lives in “no man’s land”.[8] So, in a world with eyes wide shut and a self-preserving shock shield, a realistic view towards the future of Crimea comes straight from the battlefield and, regardless of the 14 hour-long political talks[9]  or the American sanction threats against Moscow[10], the soldiers’ voice has loudly spoken and stated the truth of this continuous war: that it will never stop.

[1] The Telegraph, “Ukraine Crisis: timeline of major events”, March 5, 2015. Accessed: September 18, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/11449122/Ukraine-crisis-timeline-of-major-events.html

[2] Shaun Walker, “East Ukraine: on the frontline of Europe’s forgotten war”, The Guardian, August 28, 2016. Accessed: September, 12, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/28/east-ukraine-frontline-europe-forgotten-war

[3] Ibidem.

[4] BBC, “MH17 Ukraine plane crash: What we know”, September 28, 2016.  Accessed: October 1, 2016. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28357880

[5] Sigismund Freud, “The Ego and the Id”, 1923. [Online] Available from: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic565657.files/8/Freud%20pt%202.pdf, Accessed: September 20, 2016.

[6] Roland Oliphant, “Two years after war broke out in Ukraine, the death toll continues to mount”, The Telegraph, May 3, 2016.  Accessed: September 22, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/03/two-years-after-war-broke-out-in-ukraine-the-death-toll-continue/

[7] Ibidem.

[8] Roland Oliphant, “Ukraine peace deal: what was agreed in Minsk”, The Telegraph, February 12, 2015. Accessed: September 28, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ukraine/11407768/Ukraine-ceasefire-agreement-key-points-what-we-know-so-far.html

[9] The Moscow Times, “Poroshenko Calls for Talks with Putin”, August 11, 2016. Accessed: September 28, 2016.  https://themoscowtimes.com/news/poroshenko-calls-for-talks-with-putin-54960

[10] AlJazeera, “US threatens Russia with more sanctions over Ukraine”, February 21, 2015.  Accessed: September 20, 2016.  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/threatens-russia-sanctions-ukraine-150221215945506.html

 

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