Within two weeks, our delegation traveled all over Ukraine from Lviv to the front line near Nikolaev and back to Lviv through Odessa. We were able to talk to a great number of the Ukrainians and try to form our own idea of their mindset during this historic battle with Putin’s army. We talked with the Ukrainians and once again we were convinced of their strong will to go to the end. This fighting spirit is fueled by the active assistance of the West partners. Ukraine is ‘sentenced’ to victory at the cost of the lives of civilians and, it seems, the loss of some of the territories.
Our small delegation included a representative of the Paris Mayor’s Office for humanitarian projects, Eric Gontier, accompanying the cargo of aid to Ukrainian chaplains, who provide the Ukrainian military with spiritual, psychological and material assistance.
Today, Ukraine, torn apart by a brutal war with Russia, suffers no less from enormous internal corruption and at the same time tries to defeat its external enemy – the militant Russian Federation, which unprovokedly attacked its southern neighbor.
In the Ukrainian rear
The western regions of Ukraine are inundated with aid from America and Europe – warehouses are overflowing with humanitarian aid, tactical and military equipment. Despite numerous traffic jams on the border, a variety of equipment flows like a river from abroad. In eastern Poland, I observed many columns of military trucks, and at the very border there were multi-kilometer lines of cars, passenger buses, fuel trucks and car transporters. The latter have become so common that the Ukrainian government had to restrict their passage across the border.
The fact is that on the eve of my arrival, President Volodymyr Zelensky temporarily canceled customs duties on the import of certain types of equipment, including cars, which Ukrainian entrepreneurs did not fail to take advantage of. And now, along with pickup trucks that serve Ukrainian fighters, businessmen drive luxury Hummers and Jaguars across the border.
In the city of Rivne, Protestant chaplains coordinate the logistics of containers of humanitarian aid that enters the country from Poland and other Western countries. According to Protestant pastor Oleg Abaturov, numerous boxes with essentials and food are regularly transported to the eastern regions of Ukraine and distributed among refugees and the military.
In addition to communicating with self-sacrificing chaplains and volunteers in Rivne, I had to enter into a discussion with one of the local businessmen, who argued that it was impossible to defeat total corruption in the country as it completely and irrevocably permeated all levels of society and all branches of the government. According to him, no one in Ukraine does anything without taking into account personal gain. Nor does this businessman trust either the American or the European governments.
For my part, I tried to convey to my opponent that if we were guided solely by such mindsets, then the situation in the country wouldn’t really change soon, and the Ukrainians will never get to see the victory. I cited as an example the heroic struggle of the Israeli and Polish peoples against oppressors and traitors, and expressed the opinion that, given the unprecedented level of solidarity among Ukrainians themselves and support from states around the world, Ukraine will have to defeat Putin. In other words, the Ukrainians have no way back. Too many world interests are tied to this Eastern European territory. Moreover, there will come a serious supervision from across the ocean over military aid provided to Ukraine by the United States and allies, and every pound of aid will have to be accounted for by the U.S. Congress and the White House (it’s not the same anymore as selling humanitarian aid in local thrift stores). Then, my opponent fell silent and no longer expressed his thoughts about the pervasive Ukrainian corruption.
We also met with the mayor of the city of Rivne, Oleksandr Tretiak, a controversial Protestant figure who is known for his racist, sexist and even homophobic statements. Recently, Tretyak visited California, where he met with the Lieutenant Governor of the state – Eleni Kounalakis. Tretiak received support from the Ukrainian American House in the United States and was introduced to the administrations of Sacramento, California, and Federal Way, Washington. The mayor of Rivne asked the French attaché from Paris, who was traveling with us, to petition the mayor’s office of Paris to finance the construction of a sports arena in Rivne.
While in Rivne they were asking questions about the impossibility of overcoming corruption and the construction of entertainment facilities, near Kyiv we met with an elderly christian volunteer Lyudmila Mishanna, who is known in Ukraine for her selfless service to the elderly, the disabled and the homeless. Last year, her house burned to the ground, and her mission is in litigation with a pastor from Sacramento, Roman Skots, whose activities caused outrage among local believers and even attracted the attention of the FBI. Before his arrival in Ukraine, Roman Skots’ company had to pay over $30,000 to the U.S. government in an attempt to structure money in the state of California.
Despite the scandals that accompany the religious and business activities of Pastor Skots, his activity is supported by the Bethany Slavic Missionary Church from Sacramento.
82-year-old Lyudmila Mishanna, in her old age, had to flee from near Kyiv to the Ukrainian province. According to her, she had to go through a similar experience during World War II, when the German army invaded Soviet Ukraine.
Video investigation about the Bucha Massacre
While in Kyiv, we visited the already world-famous Bucha, in which dozens of cases of the killing and abuse of Ukrainian civilians were recorded. Recently, hearings on the case of a Russian tanker accused of shooting civilians ended in a Kiev court. He got a life sentence behind bars.
In Bucha, Gostomel, Irpin, we saw the destruction left after the departure of the Russian army. Particularly shocking were the testimonies of the affected local residents about the cruelty and absurdity of the war crimes of Russian soldiers. It was worth seeing the mountains of Russian tanks and other military equipment destroyed by the American Javelins.
According to witnesses, Russian soldiers, for example, were surprised by asphalt roads in Ukrainian villages, the good life of local residents, and even had no idea how to use some household items, such as a toilet bowl or a bidet.
Along with journalists from other countries, Slavic Sacramento is conducting its own investigation of the Bucha massacre. Soon we will release a documentary about the bloody events in this Ukrainian city, which became infamous due to the merciless attack and inexplicable brutality of the Russian army.
The Ukrainian capital coming to life
Never has the capital of Ukraine Kyiv been as deserted as it is today. Journalist Lana Bielska, who has lived here since the very first day of the war, shares her ominous feelings about the bombing of residential areas and the subburbs of the city. According to her, after Putin’s attack, even the most ardent supporters of the “Russian world” lost loyalty to their idol from the Kremlin. People willingly have been joining the Ukrainian army or become members of the territorial defense, mainly engaged in the protection of residential areas.
When I left Kyiv, dozens of ambassadors of European states had already returned there, and the American flag was again raised over the U.S. Embassy. This is a sure sign that the world partners are finally convinced of the resilience of the defenders of Ukraine.
On the front line and freedom of speech
Despite the popular belief that freedom of speech is available today in Ukraine, the work of journalists is strictly regulated in this Eastern European country. As in neighboring Russia, restrictions are dictated by wartime rules.
In particular, it is forbidden to photograph and film military installations, numerous checkpoints, and publish information about the movement of military units of the Ukrainian army. Again, the numbers of losses of the Ukrainian army are strictly classified by the state. Reporting from war zones can be done only with the permission of the country’s military command. Publication of photo and video footage of the destruction is permitted only with some delay. All these restrictions are due to the law on wartime, as there have been cases of deliberate (or even accidental) targeting of enemy artillery and aircraft after publications on the Internet.
Despite the country continuing to live and function, the population of Ukraine in all corners of the country is on pins and needles, daily risking their lives and the well-being of their relatives. Every day, without exception, hundreds of Russian rockets and mines rain down on Ukrainian cities and villages. When we were approaching the southern city of Nikolaev, we observed the fall of the rocket from our car. Here and there, fragments of rockets and other deadly projectiles were found in the fields and roadsides. We saw hundreds of destroyed houses, shops and private businesses.
A Russian rocket fell next to us
We were to spend the night in Nikolaev, which is five miles from the position of the Russian army. This regional city with a population of one million people was founded by the Russian prince Grigory Potemkin in 1789 and is now the gateway to the capture of Odessa. If Nikolaev and Odessa fall, Ukraine will lose the south.
Everywhere in the city you can find traces of the Russian army’s air attacks. The city administration building was destroyed a few weeks ago: several Russian rockets hit it, leaving a cross-shaped gaping hole. According to the mayor of the city, Vitaly Kim, 40 people died. For several weeks, their bodies were pulled out from under the rubble. Residents of Nikolaev showed me traces of falling Russian cluster bombs prohibited by international conventions.
During our night over in Nikolaev, a Russian rocket hit the neighboring block – dozens of residential buildings were destroyed, one civilian was wounded, by some miracle there were no fatal casualties. Despite the fact that the attack took place in the neighborhood, we did not hear any sirens or the actual explosion. Only in the morning we saw police and vehicles of emergency services. Then we turned into a lane and saw the disastrous results of the strike – dozens of residential buildings were destroyed, broken glass and chips were everywhere. Some of the residents were already cleaning up construction debris and assessing the damage.
As one of the homeowners told us, rockets fall in the city every other day, but such massive destruction happened for the first time.
On the same day, according to some reports, about 40 Ukrainian soldiers were killed by a Russian attack near Nikolayev.
“From whom did the Russians come to liberate us?” – I constantly hear this question from the residents of Lviv, Rivne, Kyiv, Nikolaev and Odessa.
In the forward positions of the Ukrainian army units, we found extremely motivated and ready to attack Ukrainian fighters. Despite being in the simplest living conditions – a simple dugout with an open-air shower and toilet – Ukrainian defenders, as they say, rush into battle. Оne of the commanders of the territorial defense unit told me… “after the liberation of Donbass and Crimea, we are ready to march on Red Square in Moscow.”
There is an opinion that the Ukrainian army is winning not due to Western weapons, technology and Pentagon intelligence, but due to the unity of the people, perseverance and creativity that has never been seen before. In Ukraine, they are now saying that it’s not Kyiv, which should join NATO, but NATO countries should request to “join a strong Ukraine.”
Poland and Eastern Europe
Recalling Soviet times and fearing potential Russian occupation, Poland and other Eastern European countries are doing their best to help Ukraine defeat the enemy. These efforts are expressed in the acceptance of millions of refugees, sending weapons and other military assistance, and numerous sanctions against representatives of the Kremlin.
Hoping to break the solidarity of Europeans, Putin decided to cut off oil and gas supplies to some of the countries of the European Union. However, this did not have much effect – like the Americans, the Europeans are ready to collectively endure conditional inconvenience in order to curb the Kremlin’s belligerent machine.
According to military experts, offensive and defensive weapons transferred by the Pentagon and European defense ministries should soon lead to a final turning point in the Russian-Ukrainian war and may even contribute to the counterattacks of the Ukrainian army in the east.
There is no freedom without sacrifice and blood
Perhaps, some Ukrainians or Americans will disagree with me, but still, let’s be honest – the collective West does use Ukraine in the geopolitical struggle with Russia. In particular, neither Washington nor London or Berlin (nor even Beijing) benefit from a strong Russia. Therefore, today’s struggle between Ukraine and Russia is convenient for many, so that the latter weakens so much that it will have to leave the competitive struggle for a long time.
In any case, Ukraine will have to endure the entire onslaught of the dying “Evil Empire”, take the fire on itself, as happened with Afghanistan, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Finland, East Germany and the Baltic countries. There is no freedom without sacrifice and blood. In the name of independence and democracy, Ukraine will have to defeat not only the external enemy, but also the ubiquitous corruption that corrupts the country from within.
And since, Russia in general has nothing to present to the world community, except perhaps for hydrocarbons and monotonous shows for May 9 with its immortal regiments. Based on the fact that the Russian GDP barely reaches 10% of the US GDP, it seems that Russia has nothing to surprise the world with, even in a military sense – Ukrainian defenders have shown that from a military perspective the boasted Russian army is not as scary. Driving through the territory of Ukraine, I witnessed numerous cemeteries of Russian military equipment. They say that during the 3 months of the war in Ukraine, the Russian Federation lost as much military power as during the 9 years of the war in Afghanistan.
One thing is clear today – Ukraine will not be let lose this battle. Because there is a battle not just between the West and the East, but between order and chaos, civilization and barbarism. And this battle might be won even at the cost of part of the Ukrainian territories. Ukrainians are ready to fight for victory at any cost, and the collective West will help. The stakes are too high.
With an unprecedented level of consolidation among developed democracies and record support for Kyiv’s actions (the world has not seen anything like that since World War II), Putin’s regime has been condemned by the civilized world to oblivion. The only way Putin can temporarily delay his fatal sentence is the use of nuclear weapons, striking, let’s say, at decision-making centers in Kyiv, Warsaw or … Washington. In this case, this will be the last serious decision of the Kremlin as a politically independent entity. Or doomsday for all mankind…
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