As with most reporting of current events, the presentation of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is distorted. Both sides are engaged in their own propaganda. It is said that truth is the first casualty of war and in the case of this one the falsehoods span many decades. The first thing to do, to get beyond this, is explore the history leading to to the present…
East Slavic tribes, in the area of modern day Ukraine, Belarus and Russia unite to become the Kievan Rus’ people.
980 — 1015
Vladimir the Great brought Christianity to the Kievan Rus’ people. Often referred to, in the West, as the Eastern Orthodox, this tradition (practiced from Egypt all the way to Greece) broke from the Roman Catholics in 1054.
1237 — 1480
The Mongols invade and, laying siege to Kiev in 1240, come out victorious. This begins a period of Mongol rule.
1547 — 1721.
Mongol rule fades. The Muscovy dynasty rises. This Tsarist Russia, with periods of chaos and conflict, including what is referred to as a Time of Troubles from 1598 to 1613, ends with the rise of Peter the Great and brings us to the modern age.
1721 to 1917
The Russian Empire expands from historical Kievan Rus’ territory and, stretching around 8,800,000 square miles, becomes the third largest empire in history behind the British and Mongol empires.
March 22, 1917
Tsar Nicholas II and his family are murdered by Bolshevik revolutionaries. Their dynastic rule over the people of Ukraine, Moscow and the entire Russian Empire, which had been weakened by their involvement in WW1, was replaced by a Communist state. The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, aka Soviet Union) was very antagonistic towards Christians.
Joseph Stalin, an ethnic Georgian, becomes the General Secretary and begins his rule over the Soviet Union. His reign is marked by the Great Purge, from 1936 to 1938, when from 700,000 to 1.2 million people are killed, the number including many Orthodox priests, political dissidents are rounded to be sent to Gulags.
The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) is formed in Vienna. This group was known for assassinations of Poles, Russians and Jews. It was later supported by the CIA as part of an effort to undermine the Soviet Union and led to a bloody insurrection.
Of Stalin’s atrocities, the Ukrainian famine or Holodonor, when 3.9 million were starved to death, stands out. This suffering directly the result of a collectivist plot against successful private farmers. This murderous Soviet campaign was covered-up with the help of the New York Times and Walter Duranty, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, who wrote glowing reports about Stalinism.
June 23, 1941
Stepan Bandera, the leader of the far-right Ukrainian nationalism, reaches out to Nazi invaders offering his support in exchange for an independent Ukrainian state. Bandera is responsible for the brutal massacre of ethnic Poles, from 1943 to 1945, and is celebrated today as the father of Ukraine. Ukrainian paratroopers (and nationalist priests) today chant “Our father is Bandera, Ukraine is our mother!”
Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin and Maria Ivanovna Shelomova struggle to survive the brutal German siege of Leningrad (now the city of St Petersburg) and are nearly killed. Vladimir, who lost a couple brothers in the battles, was wounded by a grenade in the fighting and crippled for life. The pair would meet after the war, get married and have a son named Vladimir Putin in 1952.
April 4, 1949
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (or NATO) is formed in Washington DC as an alliance to oppose the Soviet Union. The Warsaw Pact was created in May of 1955 as a response.
February 19, 1954
Crimea, that was part of Russia since being annexed from the Ottomans back in 1783, is gifted to Ukraine by the Soviets as a gesture of friendship. This ethnically Tatar and Russian speaking region is the site of a key warm water Russian naval base.
Oct 16, 1962—Oct 29, 1962
The Soviet Union responded to the United States putting nuclear missiles Italy and Turkey by sending their own missiles to Cuba. The Kennedy administration, after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, authorized a CIA campaign of terrorism and sabotage within Cuba, answers with a naval blockade. The Cuban Missile Crisis ended when Moscow backed down after a secret deal where the offending US missiles were removed in Europe.
A pro-Soviet government government takes power in Kabul in 1978 and tries to counter Islamic traditionalism with steps towards modernization. They invite Soviet military advisors and this leads to troops being deployed to help the Afghans suppress the insurgency. The CIA supplied the Afghan rebels and foreign fighters (including a Saudi named Osama Bin Laden) the Mujahideen, with weapons. The Soviets withdrew after a humiliating costly affair.
December 26, 1991
The Soviet Union collapsed, Warsaw Pact dissolved, and Soviet republics (including Ukraine) given their independence. NATO begins an eastward expansion, absorbing former Soviet republics. Russia falls into disarray as oligarchs partner with West to exploit the vast resources of that country and Ukrainian also becomes known for extreme corruption.
March 24, 1999—June 10, 1999
NATO intervenes on behalf of Kosovo rebels, who had been resisting Serbian authorities, and then demands that the country be partitioned along ethnic lines.
December 31, 1999
Vladimir Putin became the acting President of the Russian Federation when Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly resigns. From 2000 to 2004, after winning a special election, he begins to reform the country and reign in the oligarchs forcing them to answer to his government in order to keep their power. Putin opposes the expansion of NATO to his border, regarding it as a threat to Russian sovereignty, and makes this red line clear.
Nov 21, 2013—Feb 22, 2014
The democratically elected President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, decided to keep closer ties with Moscow over the European Union. This leads to protests in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kiev. The protestors occupied the square, they had their own food production, medical and broadcasting facilities, along with that stages for speeches and performances, as well as their own security forces. This boiled over when snipers, still unidentified, fired on the crowd. Both police and protesters were killed in this attack. Prior to this escalation high ranking US officials, then Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the Ambassador to Geoffrey Pyatt, picked the replacement of Yanukovych who is later overthrown in the Maidan coup.
May 12, 2014
Hunter Biden, son of the then US Vice-President, Joe Biden, is given a seat on the board of Burisma Holdings, as a “legal advisor” and is paid over a million for this service. He gave Burisma executives access to his politically powerful father and later the elder Biden would brag, live on television, about a quid pro quo that got a Ukrainian prosecutor fired who had been investigating Burisma corruption.
Feb 20, 2014 – Mar 21, 2014
The Russians, believing their naval base in Crimea would be threatened by the new pro-West government, moved quickly to secure it from the Kievian nationalists. They already had a significant military presence there, it is a Russian speaking area, and the Crimean status referendum, held on March 16, 2014, had 87% turnout and was 97% in favor of reunification with Russia.
April 6, 2014–February 24, 2022
The Russian-speaking Donbass region also wanted more autonomy, they opposed Kiev’s efforts at “Ukrainianization,” which sought to erase their Russian heritage, and eventually declared their independence. These break-aways were invaded by the Kievan regime, starting a war that killed over 14,000 and lasted nearly eight years before the current Russian intervention.
May 2, 2014
Protests around the country became violent again when the right-wing nationalists, who favored the new post-coup government that had been installed in Kiev, forced opposition demonstrators into a building that was set a blaze. This incident, the Odessa Massacre, burned alive 48 people, some of those who did manage to escape were beaten by the mob. Like the shootings used to justify the Maiden insurrection, nobody was arrested or charged for this mass murder.
April 21, 2019
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a comedian, groomed by an oligarch, wins the second round of voting in a landslide victory and becomes the President of Ukraine. He promised to bring peace and end corruption. There was not much success on either front. Human rights abuses have only increased during his presidency and especially after the start of the Russo-Ukraine War.
February 24, 2022
After massing their troops on the Ukrainian border, Russia demands that the shelling of Donbass cease. When the attacks continue, the “special military operation” begins, which is condemned in the West as an “unprovoked invasion,” and is now effectively a proxy war between NATO and Russia. The bloodshed continues to the time of this writing.
Vladimir versus Volodymyr
While many commentators, on both sides, want to present this as a battle of good and evil, it is really a fight between spiritual (even actual) cousins. Those who say that Russia is the aggressor neglect that the war began years ago with the Ukrainian nationalists and their campaign against separatists, that this came about as a result of a coup apparently orchestrated by or at least with the direct aid of the US State Department. If Ukraine can be independent of Russia, or Kosovo from Serbia, why not Donbass? And who says that the Soviets handing over Crimea, in the 1950s, is more valid than the referendum that brought it back?
The US “rules-based international order” only makes sense for those who share the bias of those spoon-fed by US media. The legacy of CIA support for terrorism abroad and violent overthrow democratic makes anything done by Russia seem like child’s play. The US acts with impunity around the world—provoking sanctioning, and invading with destructive campaigns of “shock and awe” anyone who dares to oppose its imperial aims. The US really had no business playing king maker in the backyard of Russia. The US enforces the Monroe Doctrine in the Western Hemisphere, why would Russia (or China) be happy with our military expansion in their own areas of national interest?
Sure, Russia isn’t faultless, by any means, and Putin is no St. Vladimir either. But, that said, nor is Zelenskyy or the Kievan (Kyivan) nationalist regime he represents. Truthfully, the most significant difference between the two sides of the war may actually be their Slavic language dialects. Which is to say it isn’t much. Both sides commit war crimes, both lie about the other side, both also share the same religious and ethnic heritage. They are natural allies, given their shared Kievan Rus’ history, which is probably why Western powers want to instigate and encourage the division. It is a family feud, a fratricidal war, and benefits only the US military-industrial complex.