2 years into the war/ exhausted Ukrainians refuse to surrender

2024-02-24 09:26:00, Kosova & Bota CNA

2 years into the war/ exhausted Ukrainians refuse to surrender

Maryna Ljuschyna on February 24, 2022 wanted to give a course on cooking chocolate. In the evening, she set the tables and was happy for the children, who would come to her private youth theater in Konotop in the north of Ukraine.

That night the actress, mother of two children did not sleep well. She heard an alarm and thought it was the tram signal. "At seven o'clock in the morning a friend called me and said: 'Turn on the TV, it's war,'" recalls Ljuschyna, who now lives in Bonn, Germany.

Konotop is located about 80 km from the border with Russia. Two years ago, the city was surrounded within two hours by Russian troops. There was resistance, but the forces were disproportionate and the Ukrainian army withdrew. Later, the city was recaptured by Ukrainian troops and liberated.

In the first days of the war, Ljuschyna escaped to her mother on the outskirts of the city, when she encountered Russian troops: "I asked them: What are you doing here?" Their answer was: "We have come to get President Zelensky."

Ukraine as a ball game for measuring forces?

As if Ukraine were not an independent state, she is outraged. The invaders had thought they would be welcomed and were surprised to find the opposite, the woman says.

After three days, Lyuschyna escaped to the west of Ukraine and from there, together with millions of other Ukrainians, continued on the way to the EU. Her husband stayed.

She is still unable to understand it to this day: "I didn't expect that there would be a big war. How can something like this happen in the middle of Europe in the 21st century?"

Ljuschyna accuses the West, which is considering Ukraine as a game ball and a commodity: "Europe was watching and waiting, whether we will be killed or not."

This applies to all governments. The US, Great Britain and other Western governments have been providing weapons to Kiev since before the Russian invasion. Germany later joined these aids, but today Germany is leading the list of helping countries.

Masked men invaded Crimea

Two years ago many were surprised, even the people themselves in Ukraine. While the Russian attack had started eight years ago with the annexation of Crimea: on February 27, 2014, armed and masked men in uniforms with national symbols occupied the parliament and the territorial administration on the peninsula. The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, later admitted that it had been Russian soldiers.

Ukraine was greatly weakened. In Kiev, opposition protests forced pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych to flee to Russia.

The new pro-Western government did not have the courage to defend Crimea with arms. The West advised Kiev to remain withdrawn - even after the spring of 2014, armed conflict broke out in the coal region of eastern Ukraine, in the Donbas. There were no harsh sanctions.

Russia put its own people in charge of pro-Russian forces in Donetsk and Lugansk and continued to arm them more and more in secret. The West tried to resolve the conflict through talks, Ukraine did not declare a state of war. The war was called "action against terror".

"Not our war"

All this made, that for many wars it seemed quite distant. "Most Ukrainians didn't understand that this was their war," Ljuschyna says.

While Maksym Kosub, the translator from Kiev, remembers how in June 2014, in a demonstration in front of the Russian embassy, ??he demanded the breakdown of relations.

"I've understood since then, it's a war," says Kosub. He voluntarily enlisted at the front in Donbas and was wounded. He was part of a patriotic minority that opposed Russia. Since the attack in February 2022, he continues to fight in the Ukrainian army.

Should Ukraine have fought for Crimea? In Ukraine, many think so. "I tend to say that the effort should have been made," says Susan Stewart, a Ukraine expert at the Berlin-based think tank Science and Policy Foundation (SWP).

She refers, however, to the "weakness of the leadership in Kiev" at the time. The truth also includes that: Russia deployed troops along the Ukrainian border in 2014 and has been threatening mass intervention ever since. The Ukrainian army in Crimea was demoralized, a large part of the soldiers went over to the other side.

It depends on western aid

The war in Donbas seemed to be frozen between 2015 and 2022, although in fact it turned into a trench war with thousands killed. Why did the West believe that this would remain so? Why didn't anyone supply Ukraine with heavy weapons and big projects of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline with Russia continued to be designed? Susan Stewart explains this with the belief that existed, that through integration war in Europe could be prevented. After 2022 Ukraine changed a lot. "We continue to fight for Ukraine despite the cost being very high," says soldier Maksym Kosub. The army has changed a lot, it has become more professional, although it still has problems.

"The society has proven to be self-organizing," says Kosub. As an example, he mentions the voluntary helpers, who have been supplying the army with vehicles, surveillance equipment or medicines for ten years. Kosub believes that the war will last and there will be many victims - but in the end it will end with the victory of Ukraine. In retrospect, he says, "Everyone underestimated Putin and his willingness to ignore all the rules."

Even Maryna Ljuschyna believes in a victory. The war has made her stronger, more uncompromising towards Russia, towards the Russian language and culture, says the actress.

One day she wants to return to her husband, but no longer in Konotop, but will want to live in the west of Ukraine: "It's safer there." Russia, according to her, will remain a dangerous neighbor.

Susan Stewart will not make predictions beyond a year. She does not expect any "surprises" in Russia. With Western support, Ukraine will resist, however, after ten years of war, exhaustion continues to be felt. "Very little is thought about what could happen if Ukraine loses", says the expert. The cost would be "much higher"./ DW

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