Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas, with thoughts of Ukraine

 Merry Christmas everyone!

The public Christmas tree of Kyiv (source).

Ukrainian air forces detected Santa's sledge in the air space of the country (generally closed for civilian aircraft) and guaranteed him a safe flight (source).

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Winter Is Coming

The hat and scarf that I decided to keep because of their problematic color pattern. The hat is an industrial product, and the scarf has been knit by me to match (but I hadn't the exact same red yarn).

It is late October, and Europe is bracing itself for a difficult winter, with fuel and electric shortages due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Among the most vulnerable are the Ukrainian refugees. The Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Iryna Vereshchuk, yesterday asked them to stay where they are until the spring. The reason is that Ukraine’s energy system, all but destroyed by recent Russian attacks, would not cope if they return. However, in a relatively poor and disorderly country such as Bulgaria, their situation is precarious even in peacetime. Volunteers try to help as best as they can. 

Near my workplace is a bar run by Vasko Krapkata ("Vasko the Patch"), a renowned freedom-loving blues singer. His people periodically collect items and money donations and then distribute them among Ukrainian mothers and children who have found refuge in Bulgaria. In addition to new purchases, reused clothes, blankets and toys are welcome. This is also a nice opportunity to part with things that we no longer need but cannot simply discard because of their good quality and/or sentimental value.

Today, I gave away some things, including a baby blanket which I had kept unused for more than a decade. It is surprisingly difficult to find a nice baby blanket to buy. So what? I am well into post-reproductive age, and shall never have another baby. If in a vague and distant future a baby of a new generation appears in the family, we'll find a new blanket somehow. The same is valid for a ton of my sons' toys and puzzles which I had kept until now.

A vest which was an early knitting success for me. Off it goes!

A coat which I bought long ago for another difficult winter. It was too thin, but a true winter coat simply couldn't be found at the market. My late mother modified it and made it warm by adding a layer of woolen cloth from inside. I wore this coat for years, even during my honeymoon. But I haven't worn it recently, though it is still good. Off it goes!

My sons' childhood winter hats, and scarves I have knit to match them. Off they go! My sons are in their late teens now. In the last moment, I brought a hat and a scarf out of the bag because I realized that their broad blue, red and white stripes resembled the Russian flag. Putin has created aversion to an otherwise nice combination of colors (though this is the very least of his evils). So this particular set may not be the best for a Ukrainian refugee child. It will go to someone else.

I was just a little bit sad to part with these material traces of the past, but now I feel lighter. It is true that memories can weigh you down. For their new owners, they will be nothing more than means to help make it through the winter, probably to be discarded in spring.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Edward Snowden Adopted by Putin's Russia

Russian president, bloody dictator and genocidal warmonger Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to the wretched US traitor Edward Snowden. I think that these two creeps fully fit and deserve each other. It would be best if they embrace as good buddies and together embark on the well-known route of the Russian warship.

Friday, September 16, 2022

In Iran, another victim of the Islamic headscarf


As we all know, theocrats in Iran insist that women cover their heads with hijabs (Islamic headscarves), whereas many women do not want this at all. That's why the theocrats maintain morality police to enforce the Islamic dress code. Mahsa Amini (22, pictured) was arrested by the morality police on Tuesday for "education about the hijab", beaten inside the police van, and brought to a hospital several hours later in a coma. She died today.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Putin abandoned rhetoric, admitted land grab

 From the Daily Star:

"Putin hails Peter the Great, admits his own war on Ukraine is land grab

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid tribute on Thursday to Tsar Peter the Great on the 350th anniversary of his birth, drawing a parallel between what he portrayed as their twin historic quests to win back Russian lands.

"Peter the Great waged the Great Northern War for 21 years. It would seem that he was at war with Sweden, he took something from them. He did not take anything from them, he returned (what was Russia's)," Putin said after a visiting an exhibition dedicated to the tsar.

In televised comments on day 106 of his war in Ukraine, he compared Peter's campaign with the task facing Russia today.

"Apparently, it also fell to us to return (what is Russia's) and strengthen (the country). And if we proceed from the fact that these basic values form the basis of our existence, we will certainly succeed in solving the tasks that we face."

...Putin has repeatedly sought to justify Russia's actions in Ukraine, where his forces have devastated cities, killed thousands and put millions of people to flight, by propounding a view of history that asserts Ukraine has no real national identity or tradition of statehood...

In July 2021, the Kremlin published a long essay by Putin in which he argued that Russia and Ukraine were one nation, artificially divided. It laid the groundwork for his deployment of troops to Ukraine.

Moscow says it acted to disarm and "denazify" its neighbour. Ukraine and its allies say Putin has launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

In the run up to what Russia calls its "special military operation", Putin blamed Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, for creating Ukraine on what Putin said was historically Russian territory."



Sunday, June 05, 2022

Western leaders criticized over war in Ukraine

 From Simon Tisdall at the Guardian:

"Timid Biden condemns Ukrainians to an agonising war without end

It seems odd, to put it mildly, that Joe Biden is happy to supply Ukraine with advanced rockets as long as it does not fire them at Russia. Vladimir Putin can aim missiles at Ukrainians from across the border whenever he wants – but Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s troops can’t shoot back at their tormentors.

Strange, too, that the UN is seeking Russia’s agreement for convoys to escort grain from Odesa and other Ukrainian ports. It’s Putin who is preventing 22 million tonnes of grain reaching the Middle East and Africa, where millions face famine. Don’t ask permission. Send a multinational force to smash his illegal blockade.

The US and UK have made a big fuss in the past about preserving freedom of navigation in international waters, including the Black Sea. Puzzlingly, they in effect ceded these waters on 24 February to Russia, whose navy bombards and besieges Ukraine’s cities and ports at will...

Left to fight alone, Zelenskiy pleads for heavy weapons but his pleas still often go unmet or responses are delayed. “We need to get serious about supplying [Ukraine’s] army so that it can do what the world is asking it to do: fight a world superpower alone on the battlefield,” says US Gen Philip Breedlove, formerly NATO commander in Europe. He’s right.

It’s no good relying on sanctions, as the EU proved again last week. Its decision to let Hungary’s mini-Putin, Viktor Orbán, water down an oil embargo was weird. Yet Germany’s Olaf Scholz and fellow euro-wobblers are content. Duty done on oil, they will now more stubbornly resist what their bankers and businessmen most fear: sanctions on gas.

Hardest of all to understand, perhaps, is why some Western governments persist in attempting business as usual with Putin, who they know, for certain, is overseeing atrocities and war crimes. Scholz and France’s Emmanuel Macron hold regular phone chats with him. It’s said they are realists seeking peace. No. They are dupes, normalising mass murder...

Another puzzle: why is Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov’s shameless spewing of disinformation tolerated around the world? Why do Russia’s ambassadors get free airtime to spin their lies?...

One reason such impunity endures is that China and India, though sworn to uphold the UN charter and international law, prefer instead to profit from Ukraine’s agony by buying cut-price Russian energy...

But, ultimately, it’s the western allies’ own policy contradictions and timidity that most undermine Kyiv at a critical moment, 100 days into the war. Half-measures are their default position. They won’t go the whole hog.

Intimidated by Putin’s nuclear hints, fearful of escalation, and alarmed at rising domestic costs, western leaders are scared, deep down, that Ukraine may win. At the same time, they are committed – politically, morally, rhetorically – to ensuring it does not lose.

The resulting confusion, representing the worst of both worlds, is personified by Biden. Ostensibly clarifying US war aims last week, he insisted Russia that must “pay a heavy price”. If it went unpunished, it would “open the door to aggression elsewhere, with catastrophic consequences the world over”.

Yet even as he raised the stakes, Biden avoided any mention of Ukrainian victory. There was nothing about winning. Instead, he spoke vaguely of future negotiations while offering personal assurances to Putin. The US did not seek his overthrow, he said. Nor would NATO attack unless attacked...

Biden’s too-modest war aims are a manifesto for the muddled middle. Where does this leave Ukraine? Still solitary, still lacking essential modern weapons, and still fighting for its life with one hand tied behind its back – by its closest friends.

And where does it leave the West? Afraid, in equal measure, of victory and defeat, and hoping, fingers crossed, for some form of shabby compromise...

This weak-kneed approach guarantees only one thing: the war will run and run. Diplomacy is stalled. Sanctions are having limited effect and, in terms of energy prices, are harming Europe more than Russia. Only increased direct and indirect NATO military pressure can shift this dynamic.

Campaigning in 2020, Biden pledged an end to what he called America’s “forever wars”. Now, tremulously pulling their punches, he and other Western leaders condemn Ukrainians to exactly that."

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Diplomatic solution in Ukraine "augurs horrifying prospects"


Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recently roiled the foreign policy community by becoming the most prominent voice urging Ukraine to pursue peace talks with Russia.

Kissinger prioritized Putin appeasement over Ukrainian victory, critics alleged, exposing his wanton priorities in the process. But critics did him a favor by ignoring the specifics of his vision...

Voices pushing Ukraine to trade land for peace rarely specify how much territory should be sacrificed, or where.

Russian forces currently occupy an area stretching from pieces of the Kharkiv region in Ukraine’s north, circling around the Donbas in the east, and extending along the country’s southern Black Sea coast near the city of Mykolaiv. The occupied territories include rich agricultural land, multiple seaports, and a nuclear power plant. Russia has sacrificed considerably for some of it, especially in places like Mariupol, along front lines in the Donbas, and on the outskirts of Kherson city. Putin is building local governments in some of these areas, too, and his share of the Donbas is increasing.

If this is the territory Ukraine should sacrifice, hardly anyone seems willing to say so. Kissinger came close, as did Columbia University professor Jeffrey D. Sachs...

Perhaps one reason nobody wants to talk specifically or realistically about a diplomatic solution is that it, like war, augurs horrifying prospects.

Consider a peace that leaves all occupied territory in Russian hands. In reality, this would mean Ukraine loses seaports, much of its core agricultural base, and substantial, vital energy sources. Alternatively, any deal that incentivized Russia to return to the 2014 boundaries would likely entail spectacular concessions.

Indeed, it is hard to conceive of a settlement that maintains Ukraine’s fundamental nationhood while not emboldening Russian expansionism. Rather, toleration of Putin’s land-grab or offering major bounty in exchange will likely forge a new order not simply honoring Russia’s borders, but also accepting that its foreign escapades—however immoral or poorly executed—get to succeed.

Why would an agreement hold? To abandon military resistance in favor of diplomacy at this point is to put exceptional faith in the Russian government. This is the same government that, in recent decades, habitually invaded its neighbors while lying about its actions and intentions up to and during the operations themselves.

Forget the emotional impact of trying to engage in a dialogue with the unrepentant perpetrators of the massacre of civilians in Bucha. Can Kyiv trust a military that marched into Crimea in 2014 with unmarked uniforms; that told the world it was withdrawing its troops from Ukraine’s borders before invading this year; and whose obvious battlefield effort to take Kyiv diverged from its stated war aims?

Then there’s the long-term challenge of ideology. Western commentators seldom take seriously the depth of Russian nationalists’ assertion that Ukrainians are an artificial people maintaining an artificial state. Russia’s pseudo-religious claims to Ukraine are not only the pastime of obscure fanatics; they animated Putin’s speech at the outset of the invasion (“Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia,” he said). Why would this Russian leadership and intelligentsia ever affirm Ukraine’s sovereignty?

The advocates of “negotiation” should not be excused from addressing these topics.

Perhaps they think that Ukraine should be sacrificed and crimes against humanity tolerated for the sake of preventing inflation, food and energy crises, or a power vacuum in Russia. Fine. Let them then argue for it.

But the current strategy of proclaiming the consequences of war but not its alternatives amounts to little more than a petulant moan. At best, generic odes to diplomacy will be meaningless, given that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledges that the war will end in negotiations.

A more concerning prospect is that these calls will distract from the urgent task of assisting a society under heinous attack from a nuclear-armed madman.