The problem with Kremlin’s ‘Ukraine has civil war’ narrative is the fact that the whole ‘Ukraine has civil war’ narrative is something Kremlin fell back on when, well, something happened; I don’t remember if it was before MH17 or after, but after a certain moment Putin and his cronies stopped talking about ‘Novorossiya’. Maybe it was after MH17 and all the ‘it wasn’t us, we ain’t dun nuthin, oh and MH17 was shot down by Ukrainian Buk/Su-25/Su-27/MiG-29/nope it’s a Buk again/nope it’s a Su-25 again’ narrative. For something they didn’t do, Russia wastes a lot of time and effort to bring attention to that something; this is also valid for the ‘Ukraine has civil war’, which they pay so much attention to that Russian news programming mostly consists of Ukraine, with an occasional injection of Tsar Putin. Probably this is why no one believes Russia anymore, but the readiness with which Russians themselves eat this shit is beyond me; I’ve seen people chest-pounding about ‘NOVOROSSIYA NEW COUNTRY AVENGE ODESSA MARCH ON KYIV TREMBLE UKROPS AND DESPAIR’ one day, only to start spouting ‘silly ukrops, your country has civil war, so sad for you, oh and also you BOMBARD CIVILIAN TARGETS YOU FASCISTS NO WONDER YOUR COUNTRY HAS CIVIL WAR’ the other. There is a Soviet joke about the snake that broke its spine trying to follow the party line; Russians must probably be spineless by now.
Okay, this is not fair: I have precisely one acquaintance in Russia who started spouting doom and gloom about ‘your country has a civil war, you should save yourself before it’s too late’ in about late April/early May. I’ll give her points for consistency. The problem is, of course, that this doom’n’gloom is blown out of proportion; two percent of Ukrainian territory sees actual combat (you know, the one that Russia escalated into a recreation of the Iran-Iraq War, sans chemical weapons), while in Kyiv the war is only apparent in advertising, soldiers on leave or excessive numbers of militsiya in the subway. There are also PA announcements on what to do if there is a suspected bomb threat, and my university campus now has ‘BOMB SHELTER’ signs posted everywhere, but that’s it. I’ve seen Russian expats compare the situation with Moscow circa Second Chechen War, and it probably is. Speaking of which, Russia never calls Chechen War a ‘civil war’, and no one in the hated West does, too; yet when you confront Russians on it they say it was ‘totally different!’. Well, yes, it is totally different; for one, Donetsk doesn’t resemble Grozny, and for another, nobody gave Chechen separatists more tanks than some NATO member states have, and nobody came to bail their asses out with vacationing troops. Fat lot of difference. I’ve seen people argue that Donbass insurgents have popular support, thus this is a civil war; Chechen separatists also had popular support, but somehow the Chechen War isn’t a civil war. Hypocrisy, again, but perhaps one that is not surprising.
The Donbass conflict is far from clear-cut, of course; it had the markings of a civil war from the start, but then again, many conflicts have. It’s also not as if no one intervened in civil wars before; Russia even plays the Spanish Civil War analogues to pander to leftists domestically and abroad, even despite its own performance being more similar to Nazi Germany or perhaps Italy. The only problem is, of course, that Russia bears most of the responsibility for the war starting in the first place. There was Russian TV’s coverage of Maidan. Talk of how Ukraine is now ‘country 404’ actually started BEFORE little green men started popping up in Crimea. Crimea itself, which jumpstarted pro-Russian ‘Putin take us home’ protests in half of Ukraine. Mr. Girkin’s takeover of Slovyansk, which erupted into a shooting war and which directly caused pro-Russian supporters in Odessa to try the same there. I distinctly remember that time and I’m actually a bit ashamed; but then, it looked like the tide turned for once and Ukraine struck back. But Odessa, whether planned or spontaneous, itself played into Russia’s hands by recruiting thousands of Russians to fight ‘fascist oppressors’ in Donbass. This is where the insurgency started going less local and, indeed, more Russian. Russia constantly spoke about Ukrainian fascists, Novorossiya and stuff like that, thus fueling the entire war; I’m not sure that whoever attended the mock referendum in Donbass actually wanted their land to be turned into a warzone, but this is exactly what happened. Of course, Crimeans lost, too; their desire to reunite with Russia was partially based on Russia’s supposed affluency, yet Crimea today is extremely poor. Russia, thus, provides information and PR support for the insurgency, which was ostensibly about joining Russia/declaring independence in the first place, supplies the insurgency with weapons, equipment and manpower, and unfailingly comes to bail its ass out of the fire with vacationing Russian troops and Buryat tank brigades. All the time they vigorously deny that, saying that it’s a ‘civil war’ (uh, right, a ‘civil war’ that for some reason takes place in a miniscule part of the country), even if they spouted ‘Novorossiya’ rhetoric only a few months ago; and thousands of Russians do the same, too. First they fuel this war, this ‘conflict’, if you will, and then they just go and wash their hands of this. ‘DPR and LPR are part of Ukraine’, Putin or Lavrov says, while conveniently forgetting how it was ‘eight ancestral oblasts of Novorossiya’ only a year ago. Yeah, well, nope. Not buying this.
This problem is also why reconciliation is unlikely between Russians and Ukrainians in any foreseen future. Many Ukrainians had the opportunity to see Russia’s little war in the making firsthand. Many Ukrainians also have someone who’s out there fighting; many Ukrainians had someone die in the line of duty. Many Ukrainians actually supported the war effort, particularly before the government started picking up the slack. Then in comes Mr. Russian and proceeds to set the silly khokhols straight using words like ‘civil war’, ‘what did your Maidan accomplish’, ‘country 404’, ‘bloody chaos’ and so and so on. I don’t see a realistic scenario where all of Russia admits their mistakes and apologizes to ‘their Ukrainian brothers’, and I’m not sure said ‘Ukrainian brothers’ are even going to believe them; they’re, actually, about fed up with that sort of bullshit. So, no. No reconciliation.
We’re a bit too friendly and easy-going anyway.