Russia and Ukraine, the cold war heating up? by Jamie Wagman

Russia and Ukraine, the cold war heating up?



With the eyes of the world now trained on the Sunni extremists’ push for land and power in Iraq and America’s subsequent sword waving capturing the attention of the media, the 6am deadline that the Russian state sponsored gas giant, Gazprom, imposed on Ukraine (the country which in direct Russian-English translation means ‘on the border’) to pay back an estimated 1.9 billion dollars passed, causing the Ukraine to be cut off from Russia’s pipelines and only able to access gas which it has paid for in advance, sparking outrage amongst Ukrainian officials and residents that Russia is planning to freeze their country into submission come the harsh Slavic winter.

This latest episode comes only weeks after I was sat in a Moscow restaurant, enjoying my last few nights of my year abroad (having witnessed over the previous months pictures and videos of rallies that praised Putin as the saviour of Russian nationals in exile and a warrior for peace) , when I was greeted with the news that the self-proclaimed mayor of a Ukrainian town called Slovyansk (deep in the heart of the pro-Russian Donetsk Region), Vyacheslav Ponomarev, renamed this town into “Putinsk” of a newly formed state “NovoRussia”. Ponomarev did not stop on that, he also offered to do the same with other towns in Donbas – Donetsk into “Putino”, Luhansk into “Putingrad” and Gorlivka into “Vladimirovka”.

According to Ponomarev such renaming should help separatists to achieve a victory in the fight with Ukrainian Forces and receive help from the President of the Russian Federation, citing his reasons for doing so upon the moral boosting effect the victory at the city of Stalingrad, named for the infamous leader of the USSR during the time of the war. Ponomarev was quoted by ‘Press Ukraine’ as stating that “as soon as we rename towns this will effect not only the morale of militias, but will also assure help form Vladimir Putin. If before, Putin distanced himself from our fight, now he will not be able to do so as it will directly affects his ego”

Yesterday, there were reports that the cities on the Russian border and surrounded by pro Russian militiamen were being shelled so ferociously that the Ukrainian government used whatever little power it still clung to in the region to open up a humanitarian road way, allowing citizens and neutrals to flee the battlezone.

But that is exactly what this is turning in to. A battlezone. With the eyes of the world looking elsewhere, the Russians under Putin ( a former chief of the Russian Secret Service, the FSB, who yearns for the return of a strong, independent, united Russia) seem to be fueling the hotbed of separatism in the east Ukraine region whilst covertly supplying weapons and manpower to the rebels’ cause. How long will it be until the EU, NATO and the UN stop merely imposing sanctions that even Putin himself laughs off, nonchalantly? How long until it is too late to stop a war that not only could have been stopped months ago, but looks to be on the brink of spilling over into the surrounding ex-soviet states. Russia reserves the right to step into any territory surrounding it that it deems to threaten “Russian assets and nationals”, so how long until Moldova, Estonia, Bulgaria and Belorussia receive the same treatment that Ukraine has been under since the start of 2014?  Whilst I have absolutely no problem as a freedom and choice advocating individual with the wishes of the Russian speaking population of these regions to become a reunited oblast/area of greater Russia, I believe it is fundamentally wrong to impose military force upon the entire population and to undermine the government of the ‘opposing side’ willingly and knowingly. In doing so, Russia lost my support for her actions and will hopefully have to shoulder the consequences for them in the immediate future.


Synopsis: This article is relevant to the theme Rebels with a cause because it highlights the situation in Eastern Ukraine that not many westerners will now be up to date with, owing to the media’s fluctuating attention span on the issue.

Bio: I am Jamie Wagman, I study Russian at the University of Leeds and have recently returned from my year abroad in Moscow. I saw first-hand the effects that this crisis had on Russians and how they reacted to the west’s perception of it and so decided to write this article when Gaby invited me to do so.

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