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Commentary: Russia, Take Your Terrorists Back Home

Pro-Russian gunmen from the "Vostok Battalion" participate in a military exercise near Donetsk on June 1.
Pro-Russian gunmen from the "Vostok Battalion" participate in a military exercise near Donetsk on June 1.
Contrary to expectation, the Kremlin has not recognized the result of presidential elections in Ukraine. As of today, no greeting and no official bilateral meeting has been planned for Normandy on June 6. Once again, Russian President Vladimir Putin is out of tune with world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama, who have not only acknowledged Ukraine’s new president-elect but have also met him face-to-face this week.

So far, Moscow has merely “respected” the elections' result -- just as it did after fabricated referendums in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk on May 11. In doing so, the Kremlin has demonstrated the same reaction to two events that are absolutely different in terms of their legitimacy and magnitude.

Russian leaders have made clear that the antiterrorist operation in Ukraine’s east is the stumbling block to recognition of the elections by the Kremlin, in fact delivering an ultimatum to Ukraine. Obviously, Russia’s boycott has no effect on electoral legitimacy or world recognition. But it does affect prospects for a diplomatic, negotiated settlement of the crisis between the two states.

Sadly, there is another side-effect of the Kremlin’s diplomatic and information war against Ukraine’s attempts to restore order and law in the east of the country. By demonizing Ukrainian law enforcement, the Kremlin made some foreign observers forget who is playing what role in this story. The world is simply tired of this avalanche of bad news about Ukraine and Russia, and it wants a happy end to this drama sooner rather than later. No doubt, we in Ukraine want it even more; but let’s not be misled by the Kremlin’s calls to stop the operation against terrorists. Rhetoric against violence is always successful, unless it comes from the aggressor who is himself nurturing the violence.

It is Kyiv which is calling for an end to the aggression because Russian and Russian-backed militants are terrorizing and killing Ukrainians in Ukraine. If Russia wants to end the violence, it is welcome to do so --by taking its terrorists back home and not sending any new ones. But it is blatantly hypocritical of Russia to encourage and foster terror on the ground and at the same time blame Ukraine for it.

The Ukrainian state is dragged into two wars at the same time -- we have to defend civilians in the east, as well as tirelessly prove the legitimacy of these defense operations, thus repelling Russia’s attacks on both the military and information front lines. While Chechen gunmen are giving interviews to CNN in Donetsk, Ukrainian border guards are heavily attacked daily from Russia’s territory, tons of ammunition and weapons are crossing over the border from Russia, and Kyiv is being asked again and again to provide evidence of a “Russian hand” in Ukraine.

Every day, the Ukrainian government keeps explaining that calling Russian militants in Ukraine “separatists” is illogical because separatists are people who fight for their own country, in their own country. The militants are not rebels or insurgents either, because you don’t bring arms to a foreign state to rebel. If you do, you are a terrorist or a foreign soldier.

Terrorists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claim to have publicly executed two police chiefs in the town of Horlivka after they refused to swear an oath to the terrorists. Militants use civilians as human shields and harass them if they suspect them of pro-Ukrainian sentiments. The same people deprived many Ukrainians of their right to vote in the May 25 election by blocking polling places, and they at one point seized Donetsk’s international airport.

At the same time, the Ukrainian government keeps hearing calls to “be nice” to the militants and to talk to them. Who would negotiate on their behalf? Igor Girkin, also known as Strelkov, an officer in Russia’s foreign intelligence agency who gave orders to kill Ukrainians and is now calling for Russia to invade Ukraine? Or other similar Russia-backed terrorist leaders?

The Ukrainian government is the party most interested in putting an end to the violence in eastern Ukraine. Sadly, the Russian government is the only party that can do so without the use of force.
Andrii Deshchytsia is the acting minister for foreign affairs of Ukraine. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL. If you would like to respond to this commentary, leave a comment below or contact

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