Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ukrainian love story comes to an end

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Last April, when Ukrainians successfully overthrew their corrupt president and proceeded to repel Russia-led terrorists operating in Luhansk and Donetsk, they had little with which to do the job.

On Russia's instructions, Ukraine's run-away president had dismantled its defence and security forces. The freedom fighters, as Tanya Chornovol said, had nothing but holi ruky -- their bare hands.

Tanya Chornovol, 30, is a name to be reckoned with. The hard-hitting investigative reporter was first to expose the billion-dollar empire of former president Viktor Yanukovych, his sons and their cronies.

She was the fiery speaker of the Maidan protests against their corruption. For this, she was stalked and beaten then left to die by the roadside. She survived to become the anti-corruption striker in Prime Minister Arsenyj Yatseniuk's government.

She sounded alarms and people responded. Even Canadians came up with some $70,000 in short order.

She vaulted seemingly insurmountable hurdles to ensure the money reached the right hands. This was, after all, mere weeks after Russia's puppet president had fled and allowing the money to buy protective gear was near impossible. She persisted, reasoning that prevention is better than grief. Little did she know.

Things have improved since April. Today, Ukraine's defence forces are winning against Russia's terrorists because men like Mykola Berezovy, Tanya's husband, volunteered to fight for their country.

A Donetsk man, he knew, first hand, that Russia's claims about the abuse of the local Russian-speaking population were false; its calls for separation phoney. As false and phoney as its "free" Crimea referendum, or the white-painted military vehicles supposedly carrying humanitarian aid the International Red Cross has yet to see.

Mykola earned two degrees in finance and was a leading light in the political party of Vitali Klitschko -- the world boxing champion and mayor of Kyiv. He joined the now legendary Azov Battalion leaving behind a career in high finance and politics to ensure his two children would be spared a life in a repressive, Russia-controlled Ukraine preferring a more Western-like state.

As the fighting in the southeast intensified Tanya would dash from bureaucratic Kyiv to the front, sending supplies bought with the donated money. And to be with her husband. "He is fighting the real battle," she told friends. "Should he fall, I want to die with him."

On Aug. 10, Mykola's platoon was ambushed in Donetsk. He was hit by a terrorist sniper while trying to save a comrade. The donations had been insufficient to buy medical packs designed to stop bleeding. They were and still are in short supply. He had just texted her: "Leading a platoon. Will talk later. Love you."

By the time she responded that she missed him, she was writing to a dead husband.

Her grief is that of tens of thousands of young wives and women whose men are fighting Putin's proxies for the ideals the West says it holds dear, even though the West remains ineffective in stopping him.

Her grief is that of all freedom-loving Ukrainians whose Western friends chatter but choose not to engage. It's the pain of everyone watching Russia's nasty hand -- creating problems, then capitalizing in many of the world's hot spots with little or no consequence.

Why is Russia's criminality tolerated? Why is the West bent on appeasing a global terrorist? Let Vladimir Putin be the loser. Let him fail; not the West, not Ukraine or the freedom fighters.

Hit him with this: Throw Russia out of the UN Security Council for making a mockery of its mandate, and bring Ukraine into NATO immediately; temporarily if need be. Keep it there until Russia's aggression is stopped completely.

Let Putin deal with such steps. Too bad if he doesn't like it: we don't like it either. Perhaps the shock of merely stating such requirements will cool him down. And more: Freeze his $40 billion in personal assets. Why should he and his friends be making money in the West's institutions and enjoying high lifestyles -- like his daughter does -- while berating, yet hoping to control it? Put Russia on the list of terror-exporting states along with Syria and Iran. (Is it still unclear that Russia is fanning hatred, war and grief there?)

Follow examples of countries that already exclude Russia from international events. Don't mince words: he is evil.

Mykola and Tanya spoke often of the West's chronic lack of knowledge and understanding of Russia manifested by the fact that despite centuries of heinous crimes against humanity -- under the czars, Bolsheviks, communism and now this, it pays cowering homage instead of a rightful scorn and punishment.


Oksana Bashuk Hepburn is an opinion writer specializing in Ukraine.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2014 A7

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