Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Mourir Pour Kyiv?

It's a grey and sombre Ash Wednesday in Durham.

Two thousand miles to the east the Russian Army is pounding the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv, which, eighty years ago, endured the horrors of German occupation. And while Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his people stoically endure everything that Vladimir Putin can throw at them, the West praises their valour and offers arms, but refuses all calls for military intervention.

There are arguments for non-intervention certainly (although Boris Johnson did remark not so long ago that Ukraine was hardly "a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing"),  but - as Zelenskyy himself attested in recent days - it would be foolish to imagine that, if Putin ultimately prevails in Ukraine he will not subsequently turn his attention westward. I am reminded of the famous newspaper article by the future French collaborationist Marcel Deat in May 1939 in which he accused Poland of dragging France into an unnecessary war. What history records of the aftermath of the Munich Agreement has not been kind to the West; one wonders what it will say of us in our time.

The resolution of Ukraine has been of the highest order in resisting one of the most powerful militaries in the world. In Russia, Alexei Navalny - another supremely courageous man - has called for daily protests to end the war.  "They say that someone who cannot attend a rally and does not risk being arrested for it cannot call for it," he writes on Twitter. "I'm already in prison, so I think I can." Surely this is also the moment when the Moscow Patriarchate has the opportunity to affirm the common identity of Russian and Ukrainian and oppose this slaughter.

The meaning of Ash Wednesday has never seemed more fitting than on March 2, 2022.

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