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Source 1 – Vladimir Putin
"The collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. For
the Russian people, it became a real drama. Tens of millions of our citizens and countrymen
found themselves outside Russian territory. The epidemic of disintegration also spread to
Russia itself."
State-of-the-nation address to the Russian people. 2005, April 25
“Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians are all descendants of Ancient Rus, which was the
largest state in Europe. Slavic and other tribes across the vast territory were bound together
by one language (which we now refer to as Old Russian), economic ties, the rule of the princes
of the Rurik dynasty, and the Orthodox faith. The spiritual choice made by St. Vladimir, Prince
of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Kiev, still largely determines our affinity today.
The throne of Kiev held a dominant position in Ancient Rus. This had been the custom since
the late 9th century. The Tale of Bygone Years captured for posterity the words of Oleg the
Prophet about Kiev, ‘Let it be the mother of all Russian cities.’
Later, like other European states of that time, Ancient Rus faced a decline of central rule and
fragmentation. At the same time, both the nobility and the common people perceived Rus as a
common territory, as their homeland.”
On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians. 2021, July 12
“I’ll start with the fact that modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely,
Bolshevik, communist Russia. This process began almost immediately after the revolution of
1917, and Lenin and his associates did it in a very rude way towards Russia itself – by
separating, tearing away from it part of its own historical territories. Of course, no one asked
about anything to the millions of people who lived there.”
“From the very beginning, …the Ukrainian authorities began to build their statehood on the
denial of everything that unites us, they sought to distort the consciousness, the historical
memory of millions of people, entire generations living in Ukraine. Not surprisingly, Ukrainian
society faced the rise of extreme nationalism, which quickly took the form of aggressive
Russophobia and neo-Nazism.”
Televised speech to the Russian people. 2022, February 21
“…one cannot look at what is happening there without compassion. It was simply impossible
to endure all this. It was necessary to stop this nightmare immediately – the genocide against
the millions of people living there, who rely only on Russia, hope only on us. It was these
aspirations, feelings, pain of people that were for us the main motive for deciding to recognise
the people’s republics of Donbas.”
Televised speech to the Russian people. 2022, February 23
Source 2 – Donetsk Separatists
Donetsk and Luhansk are in the predominantly Russian-speaking
Ukrainian region of Donbas, which borders Russia. With Russian support,
the southern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk declared their independence
from the Ukraine in 2014. They call themselves the Donetsk People’s
Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). For the last 8 years,
Ukraine has been fighting to regain control of these two areas.
Alexandra Lygina is a 20-year-old student in Donetsk on a mission to fight Nazis. "We can't live
in the same country as the Nazis," she tells me. "We can't forgive all that we experienced
through the years. How can I live in one country with those who killed my loved ones?"
The DPR, in Ukraine's east, split from the rest of the country eight years ago and has a socalled "people's militia" to keep Ukrainian government forces out. In the rest of Ukraine, most
see it as Russian-occupied territory. Alexandra says it's an independent country that will
probably one day join Russia. "I feel myself Russian despite the fact that my mum is Ukrainian,
we will never be part of Ukraine again."
Two weeks ago, the DPR became the pretext for Russia invading Ukraine, with President
Vladimir Putin declaring his "military operation" was to "protect people who have been bullied
and subjected to genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years. For that, we will strive to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine and will bring to justice those who committed multiple bloody
crimes against civilians, including Russian citizens," Putin said.
Almost Russian
It doesn't take long to see who the real power in the DPR is.
Russian flags adorn the city centre, cars have Russian number
plates, cinemas show patriotic Russian films. Alexandra Lygina is
a member of a staunchly patriotic pro-Russian youth group. She
spends her spare time delivering humanitarian aid from Russia
to struggling locals. "[The DPR] feels Russian because people
speak Russian," she tells me, a week before the invasion begins.
"People have Russian money, Russian documents. So we are
almost Russian."
A public building displays the emblem of the
breakaway Donetsk People's Republic
alongside the Russian eagle coat of arms in
rebel-held Donetsk, Ukraine.
She says people here are feeling reassured by the build-up of Russian troops on the border.
"We have Russian passports, so Russia must protect us," she says. "And Russia is not an
aggressive country because Russia doesn't want the invasion that Western media talks about."
In Soviet times, being Russian or Ukrainian didn't matter. They were all part of one country,
the Soviet Union. But independence and the rise of Ukrainian nationalism made many Russians
nervous. Eight years of fighting the Ukrainian military has forced people in these regions to
choose sides. "I think some people, maybe, want to join Ukraine," Alexandra tells us. "But it's
not very many people because most of such people have moved to Ukraine."
Certainly nobody in the city's crowded open-air food market expresses any sympathy for
Ukraine. "I don't want gay prides here like they have in Kyiv," one woman says. "Why should I
run away from my territory?" asks another. "So that Nazis can live here?"
A 'Nazi' state
A short distance from the centre, signs of conflict are everywhere.
Buildings are pockmarked with bullets. An unexploded shell lies in a
suburban front yard. Military journalist and commentator Dmitry
Astrakhan, a former spokesperson for the Donetsk People's Militia,
says, "You can see that nearly all the buildings are destroyed by
Ukrainian shelling," he says.
"That's how it goes here." Dmitry tells us the DPR and LPR share a
A missile in the front yard of a Donetsk
home, before the Russian invasion began.
common fight — against Nazis. "That's why they had to make the
militia and had to defend themselves," he says. "They were under
attack both from the Ukrainian army and from Nazi battalions and Nazi paramilitary units." He
singles out a particular paramilitary group, the Azov Regiment. “They began as Nazi
paramilitary groups, they are formed from skinheads and from white supremacist groups and
from Nazis. They are far-right extremists who are legal in Ukraine, that have heavy weapons in
Ukraine and that they can do whatever they want fighting against people of Donbas."
Azov emerged in 2014 from a collection of often violent ultranationalists who joined peaceful
democrats in the Maidan protests against the pro-Russian government. Russia portrayed the
uprising as a Nazi coup, and armed and supported separatists in Donbas. The Azov battalion –
mainly drawn from local Russian speakers – threw itself into the fighting with separatists,
helping to wrest back the eastern port of Mariupol. In November 2014, Azov was expanded
from a battalion into a regiment and absorbed into the Ukrainian National Guard. ''Ukraine is
not a part of the Russian world anymore because Ukraine chose its way to the West,"
Alexandra says. "It became a Nazi country. And the Russian world is against such things."
After the invasion
Five days after the invasion, I speak to Alexandra again. She's in the Russian border city of
Rostov distributing aid to civilians fleeing Donetsk. "My main feeling is I hope the war will end
soon," she says. "This operation gives us hope that Ukrainian forces will not have the resources
to kill people in Donbas. I have relatives and friends in Ukraine in Kyiv, in Odessa, in Mariupol.
Of course I feel sad for them and hope they will be safe. But Russia bombs only military
facilities, not houses or schools or hospitals as Ukraine did."
Source 3 – Azov Regiment
The Azov Battalion/Regiment was formed in May 2014 as a
volunteer militia to fight pro-Russian separatists in the
Ukraine. It began as a group of neo-Nazi extremist
paramilitary group but was absorbed into the Ukrainian
military in November 2014. It has been used extensively to
fight against the pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region.
(Azov) Battalion soldiers say their symbol stands “idea of the nation”, which refers to Ukrainian
nationalism (not a Nazi Wofsangel). Within the Azov Battalion, however, are a minority of
soldiers with far-right, neo-Nazi persuasions. And those soldiers do little to hide their beliefs.
Some have tattoos of the Nazi swastika and SS symbols. Others wear jewelry with Nazi
symbols and read Adolf Hitler’s book, “Mein Kampf,” at night in their bunks. But the
overwhelming majority of Azov soldiers say they’re fighting for Ukraine’s sovereignty and to
repel what they call a “Russian invasion” of their homeland. Those with far-right convictions
live and fight side-by-side soldiers from 22 countries and various backgrounds, including Arabs,
Russians, and Americans—as well as Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
“I have nothing against Russian nationalists, or a great Russia," said Dmitry, a native of east
Ukraine and a member of the Azov battalion. "But Putin's not even a Russian. Putin's a Jew."
“Of course not, it's all made up, there are just a lot of people who are interested in Nordic
mythology," said one fighter when asked if there were neo-Nazis in the battalion. When asked
what his own political views were, however, he said "national socialist" (Nazi). As for the
swastika tattoos on at least one man seen at the Azov base, "the swastika has nothing to do
with the Nazis, it was an ancient sun symbol," he claimed.
The Azov are a minority among the Ukrainian forces, and even they, however unpleasant their
views may be, are not anti-Russian; in fact the lingua franca of the battalion is Russian, and
most have Russian as their first language.
Indeed, much of what Azov members say about race and nationalism is strikingly similar to the
views of the more radical Russian nationalists fighting with the separatist side. The battalion
even has a Russian volunteer, a 30-year-old from St Petersburg. He said he views many of the
Russian rebel commanders positively, especially Igor Strelkov... He "wants to resurrect a great
Russia,” said the volunteer; but Strelkov is "only a pawn in Putin's game," and he hoped that
Russia would some time have a "nationalist, violent Maidan (revolution)" of its own.
Source 4 – Normal Ukrainians
The conflict within the Ukraine between pro-Russian and
pro-western forces has pulled the country in different
directions. However, the outbreak of direct armed conflict
with Russia has had a huge and disruptive effect on the
lives of ordinary Ukrainian citizens
Samantha Hawley (Interviewer): Olga, how are you?
Olga Polotska: Uh, well, you know, we haven’t been
sleeping all all seems to be surreal, I would say. I don’t know how I am, we’re still alive,
but just...something is happening and we can definitely hear that.
Interviewer: How are you getting your information? And how will you know when you need to
run, when you need to go?
Olga: Uh, mainly through the internet. Well, as a matter of fact, we received some instructions
which were prepared by the Ministry of Culture and Information, and they provided us with a
kind of brochure, what everyone has to do in case of emergency...well, in case of
bombardment, we are supposed to go to...the closest underground station.
Interviewer: Are you scared?
Olga: Umm, no. ‘Scared’ is just not the word for that, it’s unbelievable because that’s just, you
know, umm...I would say that I am an adult person and I would understand that I have already
given birth to my kids and I have already done my duty. I am not very much afraid for myself. I
feel angry and frustration because for many years the country has been trying to, to build up
and just become a European coun... (sounds like she might cry) part of the Europe community,
the European Union, the European community. People started coming to Ukraine, I mean
tourists, uh, well, we started developing many things, we started reforming many things, and
that went quite fast. The country has changed. This can only be the end of everything.
Interviewer: You think it’ll be the end of everything...
Olga: Uh, uh, because the, the, the enemy is too powerful, and they can easily destroy (sighs)
everything. And, uh, they will not stop. Uh, it is hard to say, but that might end everything,
really. Of course, people will be fighting, and the Ukrainians...because we have been going
through a war for 8 years... Almost every day, we have people dying in the east of the Ukraine.
Interview with Dr Olga Polotska, Executive Director, Ukraine National Research Foundation
February 24, 2022
Sofia Kochmar: My name is Sofia Kochmar, a Ukrainian journalist, and right now, I’m a refugee
in Europe. (Exhales sharply) I can’t believe that I say it...
Samantha Hawley (Interviewer): So you count yourself quite lucky, in the sense that you’ve
managed to get out in a pretty safe way...
Sofia: I know it was very difficult to choose that I go because...we spent 3 days in Kyiv, in the
centre of Kyiv in basement, err, in bomb shelter, and you know, if you spend 3 days with
people who’s together with you and you can die every minute, hah, you feel them as a brother,
so, uh, when I cross the border, it was a very difficult choice for me to go because I left them.
Interviewer: So, what will you do now?
Sofia: (Sighs) I mean, I actually don’t know. () Good question! And what I would like to say, also
that I was crying first time when I was in Kyiv, and my daughter, she said... I called her on
phone, and she told me...she said to me, “please, can you buy me dog?” And I was very crying
because I understood that there is no usual life, and there is no dog to buy.
Interviewer: Yes, life is not usual anymore. Do you think that you’ll ever get to return to your
Sofia: Err...I, I prepare myself at not (sighs, sighs deeply)
Returns to speaking to reporter in Poland
Interviewer: Sean, we just heard from Sofia there. She’s obviously incredibly worried that
she’ll never get back to her homeland... Is that how other people you’ve spoken to feel as well?
Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop (Reporter): I think that generally there seems to be a widespread
fear that they may never get home again. But, of course, the people we’re meeting at the
border are in a state of shock, and when you ask them how they see their future, what lies
ahead, many of them are saying they hope to go home soon, when the war ends. Ah, you
know, there’s still a great deal of hope among Ukrainians that they might win this war, but of
course, they’re really, really worried about their loved ones.*
*Men aged 18-60 may not leave the country, and many elderly are being left behind as people
flee on foot
Interview with Sofia Kochmar, Ukrainian journalist, refugee in Poland
March 3, 2022
Source 5 – Moldova
Moldova is a small, landlocked country located between the
Ukraine (to the north, east and southeast) and Romania (to the west).
It was formerly part of the Soviet Union. Much of its eastern border
region, called Transnistria, backed by Russia, has been agitating for
independence from Moldova.
Population: 4,000,000 (2021)
GDPPP: $4,500 (2020, World Bank)
Moldova is approaching ‘breaking point’ as multiple crises resulting from Russia’s war on
Ukraine cause serious domestic repercussions, Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu told reporters
on 5 March. Tens of thousands of refugees have streamed into Moldova, one of Europe’s
poorest countries, straining its social services. Moldova has taken in 237,000 refugees, of
whom 113,000 remain on its territory. “We are by far the most fragile neighbour of Ukraine,”
Popescu said, adding that if one compares the number of refugees to the population, “it gets
pretty dramatic”. Popescu said he expected those numbers to increase. ”We are approaching
the breaking point,” he said, also noting a massive economic hit from the loss of imports from
Ukraine, chiefly the port of Odesa, as well as a collapse in investor confidence and crossborder activity.
“I can easily look ahead at a lost decade in terms of democratic consolidation and economic
development for Ukraine, for Moldova.” “Moldova is in a very, very tight spot,” he said.
Alongside Ukraine and Georgia, its partners from the so-called Associated Trio, Moldova,
applied to join the EU earlier this week.
At the same time, the country has no intentions to join global sanctions against Russia or take
steps to move closer to NATO, Popescu said. Popescu said this decision is based on its
precarious security situation and its neutral military status, enshrined in its constitution.
Transnistria headaches
In addition, Moldova is fractured by the Russia-backed breakaway Transnistria, which
demanded recognition of independence on 5 March. The separatist authorities in Tiraspol
announced in a press release that they disagree with Moldova’s request to join the EU. They
also demanded the immediate recognition of Transnistria’s independence, just like Ukraine’s
separatist Donbas region before Russia’s invasion. Some analysts believe that territory could
be used as a future staging point in the Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine.