Ukraine dispatch: ‘Ukrainians are divided into two camps; those who are panicking, and those who see all this as a provocation’ Dispatches
US Department of State
Ukraine dispatch: ‘Ukrainians are divided into two camps; those who are panicking, and those who see all this as a provocation’

Law students in Ukraine are reporting on the latest developments in that country as it faces a series of internal and external challenges. Here Anna Tymoshenko, a fourth-year law student at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, reports from Kyiv.

US Secretary of State Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva Friday to discuss the growing threat to Ukraine’s integrity. The talks lasted an hour and a half and were scarcely effective.

The Russian official said that Russia has never threatened or claimed zones of influence over the Ukrainian people. According to him, all the “hysteria” in Ukraine is aimed at getting people to turn a blind eye to the non-compliance with the Minsk agreements. It’s worth noting, however, that Russia itself failed to meet its obligations under the Minsk agreements: the documents signed in the Belarusian capital on February 12, 2015, were a 13-point peace plan that was immediately violated, and instead of a ceasefire, hostilities escalated, resulting in hundreds of civilian and military casualties.

Responding to Lavrov, Blinken emphasized that Russia should persuade the world through actions rather than words. One of the possible steps of doing so could be to withdraw troops from the Ukrainian border to demonstrate a lack of intent to attack. However, no clear reaction could be obtained from the Russian side in this matter. Anyway, in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the US side has also stated its readiness to respond quickly and harshly.

In an interview with the German television channel ZDF, Blinken stated that even if one Russian soldier crosses the Ukrainian border, it will be considered an invasion.

Against the backdrop of a series of these talks, the situation near the Ukrainian border worsens, and panic among Ukrainians grows exponentially every day. According to a recent Conflict Intelligence Team investigation, which analyzed videos and social media comments, some Russian troops are currently 40 kilometers from the Russian-Ukrainian border, 90 kilometers from Kyiv Oblast.

According to the US spokesperson’s fact sheet, “The Russian government is trying to trick the world into believing Ukraine’s behavior could provoke a global conflict and convince Russian citizens of the need for Russian military action in Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s President expressed concern that the city of Kharkiv might suffer Russia’s first blow soon. In dealing with such news, Ukrainians are divided into two camps: those who are panicking, and those who see all this as a provocation, not believing in Russia’s ability to openly start a war.

At the same time, Russia’s expansion of the requirements for “security guarantees” has been a focus of the day. Now, Russia is demanding NATO to return to its 1997 configuration (with only17 countries), which would imply the withdrawal of NATO’s foreign forces, equipment, and weapons from Bulgaria and Romania. During the meeting, Blinken promised that the US would respond to “security guarantees” in writing within a week.

For reference:

In December 2021, the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs published draft agreements on security guarantees with the United States and NATO, as a result of strained bilateral relations with the Alliance. One provision implied that the US would be prohibited from establishing military bases in the former Soviet Union. For its part, the Russian president’s spokesman did not deny the possibility of locating Russian military bases in Cuba and Venezuela yesterday, noting that Russia “is considering various options for ensuring its own security.” Under international law, the presence of foreign troops or military bases on the territory of a sovereign state without its permission (which is usually expressed in a bilateral agreement) is a violation.

A series of reports of fake mines was another high-profile event during the talks between the high-ranking state officials. Children were evacuated from all schools in several Ukrainian cities so that law enforcement officers could inspect the buildings. Since the beginning of 2022, police have received over 300 such reports, none of which have confirmed the minelaying. The Ukrainian Security Service announced today that Russia is standing behind the wave of pseudo-mining, which is “an attempt to shake up the situation in Ukraine from within.”