WORLD AFFAIRS. Several weeks ago, I had written of a woman, G, from the town of Druzhkivka, in Donetsk Province, who had noted in her last e-mail to me: “Alexander, they will kill us.” In turn, I had ended my blog post with the comforting words: “I haven’t heard from G since that last note. Although I’m sure she and her family are safe, I still shudder at the thought of how terrified she must have been to have expected death—for nothing more than her identity as a Ukrainian in the unremittingly hostile environment created by Putin’s deliberate attempt to create havoc in her country.”

I was wrong. G and her family are not safe. Their lives are in danger from pro-Russian terrorists precisely because they are Ukrainian patriots.

I just received two more e-mails from her, translated by me from the Ukrainian and reprinted below in full.

From Saturday, May 10th, 8:42 a.m.:

Dear Alexander: a terrible misfortune has befallen my family. Molotov cocktails were thrown at my parents’ house; my parents, my husband, and I were threatened; and then armed commandoes shot at my parents’ house. The press and the Internet wrote about this [link]. Here’s one report: Yevhen Shapovalov’s building was shot at from a jeep, then it was broken into and ransacked, and all the valuables were taken. The neighbors called the militia, but they didn’t even go inside; they took some photographs of the outside and said they’d lay a trap. A few days ago they threw three Molotov cocktails at Yevhen’s building; miraculously, it didn’t catch fire; there was a small child inside, about which everyone in the neighborhood knew. Today, the terrorists attacked an empty building, as the entire family had fled. Yevhen Shapovalov is the head of the Oleksa Tykhy Society of Donetsk Province (a branch of the Prosvita Society) [Tykhy was a prominent Ukrainian dissident; the Prosvita Society concerns itself with the promotion of Ukrainian language and culture]. For the terrorists, Yevhen, like all Ukrainian patriots, is the class enemy. PS. Yevhen is also a member of our civic organization. We are currently in hiding. H and my other daughter are with me. Horrible things are taking place around us…

From Sunday, May 11th, 6:53 a.m.:

Dear Alexander: I’ve changed my e-mail address because the thugs are after my husband and me. They seized three young girls in Kramatorsk today for organizing the delivery of food to Ukrainian soldiers stationed near Sloviansk. One of them is my colleague; we had been talking just a day ago. One of the girls was released with broken ribs and torn-out hair; she was ordered to come back tomorrow with money… What are we to do? These fascists are just like the NKVD, even worse. I’m constantly on edge, while my mother had a heart attack. What have peaceful people like us done to deserve this? We’re hiding in difficult circumstances, the children are ill, H isn’t going to school. That’s what our life looks like…. We pray, but we’re losing hope.

What’s next for G and her family? Serious physical harm, including death, at the hands of Putin’s gangsters is no longer out of the question. Call me irrational, but if G and her family lose their lives I will hold Russia’s fascist president and his Western apologists (from Gerhard Schröder to Helmut Schmidt to Henry Kissinger to Stephen F. Cohen) morally responsible. They may not have thrown the Molotov cocktails, but in justifying Putin’s aggression they share in his guilt for whatever atrocities Putin’s commandoes commit.

The political message of this persecution should be obvious. Putin’s terrorists are committed to cleansing the Donbas of Ukrainian patriots—which is to say, of Ukrainians—as in their twisted understanding of identity anyone who speaks Ukrainian is necessarily their enemy. Such an attitude deserves to be called what it is: supremacism, racism, and hate.  These, then, are the fruits of Putin’s aggression.

As Europeans and Americans contemplate what to “do” about Putin, they should remember that he and his minions stand for everything the civilized world rejects. The United States and the European Union hope that Druzhkivka will be confined to eastern Ukraine. Unless they act more forcefully to stop Putin and his terror troops, the Putinite values on display in Druzhkivka may one day come to Europe.


Alexander J. Motyl's blog

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