Czech version here
Below is an interview with Ukrainian Counter-Currents contributor Olena Semenyaka, who is currently in Kyiv, Ukraine. She took the time yesterday (March 6, 2022) to do an interview with me via e-mail. Apart from correcting typos and minor lapses in grammar, this interview is unedited.
What is it like in Kyiv at this time? Food, water, electricity, and so on?
I am seizing an opportunity to give a short interview to you while there is a temporary slowdown of the military actions in Ukraine. A few days ago the Russians hit the gas pipeline, which affected a part of the city, but the damage has been already repaired. Their target was the building of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense. KyivKhlib keeps baking bread for the city, although the lines are huge, and there is a shortage of basic products like that (for instance, milk). Humanitarian aid delivers food and medical supplies to those in need. The subway is being used 24 hours a day as a shelter. One train, roughly every hour, goes around the city as a means of transportation. But overall, the citizens are encouraged to leave their districts only if necessary.
There is a curfew in Kyiv, usually from 8 PM until 8 AM. There are checkpoints at every corner of the city, and the bridges are closed to private cars. The goal is to fight the Russian sabotage groups who are trying to break through into the city, as well as to reveal and block undercover saboteurs. A month ago, Russian agents infiltrated every city and rented apartments, and now they leave marks on buildings, trees, and roads that glow in the dark to guide and direct Russian missile strikes, as well as to recruit collaborationists. Saboteurs and those who are caught suspiciously photographing the positions of the Ukrainian military are being arrested by the territorial defense forces, which are so numerous now that there are not enough rifles for the volunteers.
This regime was introduced in Kyiv after Russia hit several panel houses with cruise missiles, and Russian tanks, once they broke through the defense lines, have started roaming in the “sleeping” residential quarters and running over civilian cars. A few days ago, again with missiles, including Iskanders, they blew up the oil depot near Kyiv and struck the Kyiv TV tower, killing five people. The day before yesterday, explosions in various parts of the city were heard as well. But these days the worst is happening on the approaches to Kyiv, in the towns of Hostomel, Bucha, Irpin, and Borodyanka. The residential quarters of these towns have suffered heavily: endless columns of Russian tanks, missiles launched from both Russia and Belarus, and airstrikes targeting civilians and the civilian infrastructure. So far, the siege has failed, but the enemy is not far off. The infrastructure in these towns is ruined, and they are mostly cut off. The shelling, particularly at night, continues.
Yet, true hell broke out in Kharkiv, Chernihiv, and Mariupol. On March 3, 2022, almost 50 of Chernihiv’s residents were killed as a result of airstrikes. Yesterday, the entire city remained in the bomb shelters. No humanitarian corridors are possible. The city is besieged, just like the villages nearby. In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s first capital, the occupiers hit both the city and regional administrative buildings with missiles, not to mention the houses. Due to constant shelling, Mariupol remains without electricity, heating, and water. Attempts to organize a humanitarian corridor now ends up in shelling by the Russians. In all of these cases, there are many civilian casualties, including children, and the death toll is growing as the emergency service and rescuers find new victims under the rubble of houses.
Were you surprised by the Russian invasion?
After Putin proclaimed the independence of the temporarily-occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, the so-called DNR and LNR, or LDNR, I thought they would try to recognize them within the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and then try to move forward, if possible. When they started shelling the military bases in Kyiv and all over Ukraine at night, I understood that the full-scale war had been preplanned, but since the very beginning I considered it as doomed to fail. Putin’s intelligence misinformed him; he planned to set up a puppet governments like in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea and expected that the military “operation” and civilian casualties would not provoke a reaction of solidarity around the world. Yet Ukraine, even its allegedly most “Russia-friendly” regions, was ready to repel Putin’s attack both militarily and in relation to politics and information. There have been huge anti-Russian demonstrations in the city of Kherson, in southern Ukraine, the center of which had been occupied by the Russians until the residents literally swept them away from the city. The same is happening in the nearby cities of Melitopol and Berdiansk. It is quite possible that Russia, which had planned to complete its “military operation” in Ukraine within hours, will soon control not even a single administrative center.
Moreover, protests have begun even in the previously occupied territories of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. “Elite” Chechen units commanded by Ramzan Kadyrov were not so victorious, either. His authority, which was based on crude force, has been undermined significantly. To sum up, I was rather surprised that Putin is this stupid, but the invasion as such began eight years ago and its exacerbation was expected. I have been constantly clashing with Russian lobbyists on the information front, so I have never been at rest to begin with.
What do you think victory will look like?
The restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including Crimea. The overthrow of the regime in Russia, which will result in its own “demilitarization” and the termination of its geopolitical expansion to the West. The consolidation of the Central and Eastern European (Intermarium) countries, which are potentially Russia’s next target, and the reformation of the European Union on its basis. Western Europe began providing Ukraine with arms and all kinds of assistance quite quickly, which means that the geopolitical prospects for Intermarium as the European fortress are on the rise. The fact that NATO has not intervened is very eloquent; the European security system will. Needless to say, it will result in a change in the entire world order. Long low-intensity war and the emergence of hot spots all over the region are quite a possible scenario on the way to this envisaged victory, however.
Should Ukraine be victorious in the war, how will you win the peace?
Yes. Ukraine has shown that “the second strongest army in the world” is no match for it. Russia’s military strategy is disastrous: the columns of tanks and other military vehicles become trapped and liquidated, since Russia lacks the resources to occupy the country. It is obvious that their main reserves have been exhausted by now, and they will undoubtedly use the talks with Ukraine on March 7 to replenish their forces.
Their missiles (which are also not endless) and the Belarusian front (which is officially “neutral,” and yet 70 missiles have been launched from the territory of Belarus) are the strongest and at the same time the most vicious aspects of the Russian army, as they made it possible for them to advance to Kyiv from the north. Russian military planes and helicopters are being shot down by Ukraine on a regular basis, especially yesterday, (March 5, 2022), when nine aircraft were destroyed, so we cannot say that they have air superiority in general. However, the air defense systems are not all-powerful, and this allowed Russia to switch to terror tactics against the civilian population by hitting inhabited houses and leaving entire cities without water, heating, and electricity, and sometimes even food supplies. At the same time, the goal of these tactics was not achieved: People have only become even more determined to fight the Russian invasion until the end. In other words, instead Putin’s announced “de-Nazification” of Ukraine, the national self-identification of the Ukrainians is getting even sharper. Many Ukrainians, especially those with children, fled the country, but many also arrived from abroad to fight, not mentioning the foreign volunteers. The death toll of the Russian soldiers, according to Ukrainian sources, exceeds 11,000.
Putin’s biggest concern is to hush up the Russian army’s losses at home. Facebook and Twitter have been already blocked there. Telegram and YouTube operate with limitations. By contrast, Ukraine tries to reach the parents of those Russians who have been killed and uploads their data, as well as interviews with the captives, on the official websites: https://t.me/rf200 and https://200rf.com. The Russians have been taking to the streets despite the criminalization of the “No war!” slogan and the introduction of a 15-year sentence for “disinformation” and “fake news” concerning Russia’s “military operation.” The economic pressure is getting stronger, and we can predict opposition on the part of the Russian oligarchs.
The Kremlin’s propaganda machine, however, is preparing the Russians for the second mobilization wave, so ultra-patriotic moods and hatred for the “pro-Western Ukrainian Nazis” is growing there, too. Right now, Russia is commandeering civilian means of transportation for war needs. But the outcome of Russia’s aggression for Russia, as well as the truth about the destruction wrought on Ukraine by Russia, will counterbalance it. A further consolidation of Ukraine’s neighbors will be one of the key factors for its victory in information warfare, and, quite probably for the military as well. For instance, Poland initiated changes in legislation to allow its citizens to take part in the defense of another country — that is, Ukraine. The high motivation of the Ukrainians and their neighbors, who are eagerly assisting them and helping others to send help and to get to Ukraine, are no less important in this war than weapons. Both Belarus and China will, in the end, always choose their own national interests, not Russia’s sinking ship. Some Belarusian generals have already resigned and refused to take part in the war on Ukraine.
The Ukrainians and the Ukrainian delegation to the peace talks see victory, again, as the liberation of the Ukrainian land from Russian occupation as such, including Crimea. Unless Putin took the risk of invading Ukraine as a whole, I doubt that it would ever happen so unconditionally. The peaceful separation of Ukraine from the Soviet Union 30 years ago is only becoming real now, for everything has a price. The effort of solidarity to resolve this old conflict — that is, the simultaneous reshaping of the world order and its principles while Ukraine once again shows its remarkable defense potential for the first time since the Second World War — is the only way to emerge victorious out of this war. Luckily, many necessary changes are happening automatically and will be reflected upon retrospectively.
Do you think that the number of Russians killed are accurate? I am reminded of the “body counts“ from the Vietnam War, which were all highly inflated.
It is quite a probable number if you take into account the cargo planes and the number of destroyed enemy columns (one vehicle often carrying up to 15 soldiers). High-intensity fights are going on all the time all over Ukraine, and have been for 11 days already (1,000 per day in a big country), and Russia has never counted its soldiers. Also, take into account the ratio of the captives and killed (documented on the website which I mentioned), and those whose bodies have not yet been found were reported on by the prisoners. Ukraine says the numbers may be even bigger.
I believe that Russia will not overcome the outcome of its misinformation regarding Ukraine and the disastrous consequences of this aggression which they failed to disguise as a mere military operation. At the moment, they keep fighting because they have nothing to lose anymore. It is hard to imagine that the country that rapidly transforms into a huge North Korea will be able to maintain its military might. A change in the regime is highly probable.
Additionally, if Ukraine is able to take Crimea back, won’t that create a lasting problem? After all, Ukraine will always be next to Russia. If there isn’t some rapprochement, it could lead to decades or even more of trouble.
We believe that the decade(s) of trouble and unrest are waiting for us in any case. It is impossible to appease Russia, as the experience of Belarus shows. Either you become a part of Russia — which is especially unattractive for the Russians and Belarusians after February 24 — or you become its enemy. There is no way back for Ukraine, Russia, and the region.
What is the Intermarium Support Group, and what is your role in it?
I run the Non-Governmental Organization, the Intermarium Support Group, which since 2016 has been promoting the integration of Central and Eastern Europe. During this time it has mostly cooperated with the political party of the National Corps, which was founded by veterans of the Azov Regiment of the National Guard of Ukraine (that is currently standing on guard in Mariupol, which was taken back from the separatists by them in 2014). But since 2020, its agenda has finally received state support. On October 1, 2020, the largest caucus in the Ukrainian parliament, the Intermarium Caucus, was founded by Sviatoslav Yurash, an MP from the ruling Servant of the People party. Since then I have also been cooperating with the Intermarium Caucus as his assistant.
You can support Olena Semenyaka with BitCoin at the following address: bc1qsfps8k6n6ydgemtqrgfgcxhswqkc0uwg6q4nj6
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