Putin Wants to Divide Ukrainians. Mykolaiv Is a Test Case.

Oct 27, 2022 · 65 comments
me (monroe, ar)
Just like Trump and his ilk want to divide Americans.
Graf von Growl (Mid-Atlantic)
Putin is pure evil.
Grove (California)
Dividing the country has worked well for Republicans in their push to end democracy. Standard authoritarian playbook.
BA (US of A)
I wish (but it is apparently sci-fi) Ukraine splitted in velvet manner decades ago, not unlike Czechoslovakia into Czech ans Slovak republics. How many more thousands of lives of soldiers and millions of refugees America needs (worn out cliché about fighting Russians to the last Ukrainian...)? Instigating war of two brotherly nations... Is it still too late to be reasonable?
Robert Shaffer (appalachia)
The Russians know how to remove Putin. It is time to do it.
RLW (Chicago)
Ukraine today. Who will be next tomorrow? How can the world stand by and watch this throwback from the 20th Century apply the force developed by the former Soviet Union to destroy a neighboring country that had not done anything to deserve the current behavior by this megalomaniacal madman in the Kremlin? Putin is a little man pretending to be a big man by picking on a neighbor much smaller than Russia. Putin is the typical schoolyard bully picking on someone smaller than himself that he thought he would be easily able to overcome. To what purpose? How have the Russian people gained from Putin's war in Ukraine? Isn't it about time for somebody in the Kremlin to finally take out this would-be Stalin and finally get the Russian nation on the path to peace and prosperity in the 21st Century. Russians have suffered too many megalomaniacal leaders in their past history. They deserve a chance at real democratic prosperity instead of this silly, but deadly and costly, war.
North Pole (Westfield NJ)
All Putin demanded before the invasion was neutral status for Ukraine.... Just saying.
Amazia (Paris)
Henry Kissinger , 2014 Ukrainians live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939 , when Stalin and Hitler divided up the spoils. The west is largely Catholic; the east largely Russian Orthodox. The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other — as has been the pattern — would lead eventually to civil war or break up. To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West — especially Russia and Europe — into a cooperative international system. Ukraine has been independent for only 23 years; it had previously been under some kind of foreign rule since the 14th century. Not surprisingly, its leaders have not learned the art of compromise, even less of historical perspective. The politics of post-independence Ukraine clearly demonstrates that the root of the problem lies in efforts by Ukrainian politicians to impose their will on recalcitrant parts of the country, first by one faction, then by the other The Washington Post, March 5, 2014
Gary V. (Oakland, CA)
There was a military analyst report that said the Western democracies were not sending more lethal weapons because 1) they were afraid of escalation with NATO getting involved and 2) another sort of contradicted that by saying the U.S. led group wanted Ukraine to bleed the Russian military by sending Ukraine with just enough defense capability to achieve that but not defeat Putin. This, they have done in spades with ancient Soviet weapons while suffering huge manpower losses and additionally with so many civilians being killed, kidnapped by Russians and raped. So why are we still hesitant to send Patriot missiles (take them from our former friends, Saudi Arabia and UAE,) fighter jets and newer tanks? The Ukrainians have shown a remarkable ability to learn on the run. If we had done this way sooner we, maybe, could have helped stop so much death and infrastructure destruction like this article shows us.
Seth (PA, USA)
What an odd link between Ukrainians and their government and Iraqis and the "US backed" government of Iraq. And how did we come to back said government? And what is Putin's supposed rationale for invasion? Perhaps when Russia leaves Ukraine they will continue to be as clueless about Ukraine as we still are about the "War on Terrorism." Wait a sec. I just realized "Special Military Operation" is Russian for "Police Action." Such good company. Hope we don't pull an Afghanistan on the Ukrainians.
Drspock (New York)
Our government is failing. It failed us during the Vietnam War until massive demonstrations forced some measure of sanity to the Paris peace talks. It failed us during the Contra Wars, as President Reagan violated federal law to keep his wars against Nicaragua and El Salvador going. Bush failed us when he repeatedly lied about Iraq being linked to 9/11 and having WMD's. Obama failed us when he pledged to bring peace to the Middle East and instead destroyed Libya, waged a proxy war against Syria and expanded the conflict to Somalia and Yemen. A friend argued that Trump did not expand these war. But even he sent two combat brigades into Syrian territory, where they still illegally occupy parts of that country. And Biden's betrayal of his fellow citizens is obvious as he tries to turn another proxy war into a nuclear conflagration. And once again, the press has failed us. We read moving articles about the suffering in Ukraine. But it's as if suffering magically occurs only among the Ukrainians that we support. The UN says that 14,000 people died during the civil war. How many have died on both sides since then, we don't know, and our leaders don't seem to care. The American people want peace in Europe. American's want an end to this war. American's believe in self-determination, and that includes the people of the Donbas. Yet our government continues to support death, destruction and the risk of nuclear war. The only way forward is through peace talks.
Barbara (Myrtle Beach)
Lack of water, power and other necessities is frustrating at best. However, it is better to be frustrated than to live under Russian rule without freedom. Russian born men don't want to fight for their country. I pray for everyone's safety and hope that humanitarian aid reaches Mykolaiv in this dire situation. Rather than blaming their own leaders, the residents must pull together and do the best they can until Ukraine wins the war.
dave godinez (Kansas City, Mo.)
So, maybe the US, the EU, and the other supporters of the Ukraine should send more humanitarian aid there and less equipment to kill people. It's time for Westerners to ask themselves what would've happened in the Ukraine if their governments had not rushed to supply them with the equipment of war. One answer is that the war would have dried up from the lack of resources, and halted. Would the Ukrainian people be better off now? I certainly continue to support the idea of Ukrainian independence, but rather than help a possibly endless conflict continue, I would rather see American aid go to help the people interviewed in this article get fresh water, for example, and help the Ukraine and Russia come to some sort of accommodation and stop this war.
She (Miami,FL)
@dave godinez I support the independence of the two republics in the Donbas who feel more eastern in their identity, as well as the independence of those Ukrainian nationalists of Kyiv embracing the west. I support the independence of Crimea, since most are Russophiles and can't identify with the new Ukrainian nationalism that faces westwards, set up after the 2014 coup. A U.N. monitored referendum should be introduced so that Crimea gets the recognition it deserves without further conflict. Ukraine was recognized as a separate country only in 1991. It is still discovering its identity. The civil war was non-sustainable. Better to just let self-determination rule.
Pete (Seattle)
The people of Ukraine asked for military aid rather than plumbers, and I think we have empowered them in their decision to fight against a totalitarian form of government being forced on them. We should continue to support Ukraine militarily as long as they need it. It is not the most important thing to live, but to live well.
Just me (Here)
@dave godinez The Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine are where you find extensive torture, kidnapping, mass executions, rape and looting. There would be no Western humanitarian aid as the Russians would not allow it. During the Holodomor of 1932-33, Stalin and the Communist party denied there was a manmade famine and would not allow any outside aid even as 6 million people starved. Today, Russia does not allow the International Red Cross to visit prisoners of war. Ukraine knows that it has no choice but to fight on -- fortunately the US and NATO support them. If weapons delivery stopped, the Ukrainian people would be much, much worse off.
Irving Franklin (Los Altos, CA)
Dividing Russia into two dozen independent nations and confiscating their nuclear weapons is the only solution.
Rachel (LA)
Maybe we should test run this idea in the US first?
Rudi (Eu)
@Irving Franklin Yes, like banning capitalism to save environment. Brilliant.
Howard Herman (Skokie, Illinois)
Perhaps it is time for Ukraine to start going after and disrupting essential services in Russia. Give Vladimir Putin a taste of his own medicine. Russia takes out a Ukrainian water pipe, Ukraine should do the same to a Russian pipe. Make the Russian people deal with what Ukrainians are forced to deal with. Mr. Putin will certainly be furious and Ukraine will have to have its responses ready to answer Mr. Putin. But maybe if enough Russians feel the pain and discomfort here they will start to turn against Vladimir Putin. The divide and conquer strategy of Mr. Putin works both ways. It would be great to see it be the downfall of Mr. Putin.
Gennady (Rhinebeck)
In case you have not noticed, Ukrainians have been divided for over a decade if not longer. The source of this division is not Russia but the rise of militant nationalist extremist ideology rooted ideologically in works by Ukrainian nationalists written in the period from 1920s to 1940s. The segment of Ukrainian society that promoted this division is the political elites based in western parts of Ukraine.
mb (-)
How can an individual have so much weight in the lives of humans? Psychotic, murderous... but there he is, as if he were Dr. Evil May the time come soon when it becomes a lousy memory in the history of mankind!
RSM (Philadelphia PA)
Putin is also trying to divide Americans railing against urban elites and Christian conservatives.
Seasocal (Encinitas, ca)
@RSM He is just jumping on the same bandwagon that Limbaugh, Murdoch, and Gingrich already built. Hitler had Coughlin, Lindberg and the Bund.
Tom (San Diego)
His whole life, his dream, legacy, history books . . . and all down the drain. All that's left is this lousy speech.
kagni (Urbana)
Has Putin learned his methodology when he was stationed in East Germany ?
RSM (Philadelphia PA)
What’s more important is Biden’s strategy defending America’s interests abroad and his understanding of power dynamics. Republicans should consider supporting his foreign policy over Trump’s no policy in the near term.
Michael (NJ)
@RSM It's not Trump's no policy, it's Trump's "Great man" dictator syndrome that is at the heart of the problem. He and his GOP lap-dogs like leaders who are able to smash the opposition.
J.S (Boston)
Putin's strategy of destroying Ukraine's infrastructure and impoverishing its people has never worked in warfare unless the perpetrator has enough troops to subjugate the population. It did not work during the London Blitz, the bombing of North Vietnam, or ironically several invasions of Russia throughout history. What it does do is create a hatred for the people of the offending nation that can last for a very long time. My parents, who lived through the German occupation in the Netherlands which included a famine in the winter of 1944-1945, hated Germans until the day they died. They often told me stories how brutality and duplicity were an inherent part of the German culture. I remember the day my father was introduced to a German immigrant a few years after we immigrated to the U.S. My father said nothing but I could tell he was doing his best to suppress pure rage. I did not realize how much it affected me until one day I was having a casual conversation with a German immigrant in the company cafeteria. In the middle of the conversation, I realized my father and his father could never have had the kind of casual working relationship the two of us had. It was both an awkward and revelatory moment decades after the war.
Seth (PA, USA)
The salt made me think of Carthage. The salting is a myth, but Rome's victory aint.
Barbara (Myrtle Beach)
@J.S A dear friend managed to leave Austria with his young brothers and mother just ahead of the Anschluss. He died in his 80s, still reluctant to speak German even to help a young German tourist we met. He had 3 passports: English, American and Israeli, but did not have a passport from Austria where he was born. His pain was such that he could not manage to share his story for posterity, though I know much of it. Though he didn't spend a single day in a concentration camp, he was scarred forever.
HOUDINI (New York City)
I agree. This is a test of Will. But the central question is who or what created the problem? I live in New York City and when the city is poorly run, people speak up. Flint MI had brown and dangerous water for YEARS. Nothing was done. I think that the stress of getting clean water daily must be very hard and accounts for comments reported. However, if those upset believe that those who caused the problem are going to help them, they are mistaken. Play the hand dealt, stand the course, realize you are part of something much bigger and breathe that freedom. Viva Ukraine! Onwards.
Catman Bill (CT)
Russia practices full destruction of a nation in war. They did in Chechnya. They tried it in Afghanistan. Putin will continue to destroy Ukraine. It’s been my long held belief that NATO should have appeased Putin with a no membership to Ukraine. We might have won some concessions on further encroachment of Ukraine lands. But the ship has sailed. However, maybe not because no membership is the only negotiating offer Ukraine and the West can offer Putin for face-saving purposes. Or it’s total war until Russia launches and NATO bombs Russia into submission which then likely means nuclear war. Just say no membership this is the only negotiation to be had.
Nolapdog (Australia)
@Catman Bill : The US tried in Vietnam, tried in Iraq, tried in Afghanistan, tried in.........
garyr (california)
@Catman Bill YES....no nato membership and no EU membership for Ukraine and Zelensky should be willing to negotiate a land settlement in the Donbas region with Putin and try to put an end to this ugly war
Barry Schreibman (Cazenovia, New York)
My wife grew up in Bakhmut, a frontline Donbas city. Now is the hour of Bakhmut's agony. Because the Russians can't break through the defense put up by the city's heroic defenders, they are systematically leveling the city with rocket and artillery fire. Their message in Bakhmut, as everywhere in Ukraine, is the same as that of the homicidal rejected lover: If I can't have her, no one can. We are all a patchwork of places to which our memories attach. As all the landmarks of her childhood are blown to bits -- the theater, the school, the hospital -- my wife remembers, taking a mental tour of every nook and cranny. I listen and tour the disappeared buildings with her. And she mourns. Her loved ones are safe for the moment, having fled to a city at a distance from the front line. But her memories are shattered. Before the war, my wife, who is Russian-speaking from a Russian-speaking region, would argue with me about Putin and Russia. She had a tendency to lay the blame on corrupt, bumbling Ukrainian politicians for the loss of Crimea and the separatist areas of the Donbas. No longer. Never again. She hates Russia now with a white hot hate. Shattered, wounded, valiant Ukraine is now more united as a nation than ever before. This unity will give it victory. Russia has already lost.
She (Miami,FL)
@Barry Schreibman In Donbas, the people have set up separate republics. The Russians are not fighting the residents. They are fighting the soldiers. Many of the residents fled to Russia already, mentioned in an article in The Guardian newspaper (UK) which photographed the long queue of cars waiting to exit. My brother-in-law is originally from Ukraine where he played professional soccer. He is my son's favorite uncle. I agree that they are a valiant people, including the collaborators and the separatists engaged in civil war against the nationalists, since 2014. (Enjoyed reading your poignant comment, although can't agree with victory conclusion. What would "victory" even look like, at this point?)
Max (Canada)
@Barry Schreibman These types of fantasy narratives, like Putin acting as a rejected lover and Ukraine fighting for independence until the last hero standing is exactly what got us in this mess to begin with! It also feeds the war machine, makes corrupt politicians rich, and make the rest of us suffer and bear the cost. At some point though, after thousands die, pragmatism will prevail and a deal will be reached. Elon Musk is right about that.
Bill D. (New Jersey)
I'm quite sure that the griping is coming from a small percentage of the citizens of Mikolaiv as the rest understand that this.is.war. It's best for everyone to understand that real war is not a game of Risk. It's messy and affects or has effects literally everything. Stop to imagine a fighter bomber screaming low in your neighborhood REALLY loudly and destroying your home and those of your neighbors - or a school - in an instant. What is happening in Mikolaiv and many other cities and towns is a crime and a nightmare for people just trying to live. Best not to complain about your leaders at a time like this, unless your leaders are Russian collaborators.
Nolapdog (Australia)
@Bill D. "Best not to complain about your leaders"; its their leader that has got them into this. It is time all people started to scrutinize and hold the leaders to account.
johnw (pa)
@Bill D. ...in any conflict, the low hanging fruit will go with the winds.
Ellen (Winslow)
Glory to the heroes in Ukraine. We can learn a lot from their fortitude.
Max (Canada)
@Ellen What did we learn exactly? BTW "Glory to the heroes" slogan, was popularized by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) whose units massacred Jews and Poles in 1941-1944.
Keef in Cucamonga (inland empire)
Let me guess: send more money and weapons?
EZDan (Lewisburg, PA)
@Keef in Cucamonga Yes. Whatever it takes!!!
Cave Bear (Upper Midwest)
@Keef in Cucamonga Well, you could send more money and weapons to Ukraine now, and put an end to Mr. Putn's ambitions of conquest in Europe, or you could send even more money, and more weapons, to Europe after he stomps on Ukraine and then attacks another European nation, most likely a NATO nation, which we will then be bound to aid even more than we have Ukraine. For those who think the Ukraine war has been costly, it is almost a certainty that continued warfare on the European continent will. be nothing short of catastrophic.
BA (US of A)
@EZDan OK, let´s fight to the last Ukrainian! Supporting and, some time ago, instigating this mess with NATO expansions (US apparently wants all Russia´s neighbors to become NATO members) is terrible mistake and provocation. Imagine Warsaw Pact, in past, expanding to Canada, Mexico (forget about Cubs)!!! This is a fine recipe for the WW III. Amen. PS And I say this as a survivor and wittness of August 1968 (and January 1993, when Czechoslovakia split peacefully into Czech and Slovak states: is not this a better suggestion? I.e., to peacefully split irreconcilable parts of a multiethnic country, instead of fratricidal war?)...
George (NYC)
Putin plays dirty, and uses oil, gas and nuclear blackmail to scare everyone else. I think it’s time to put an end to all this: give Ukraine an automatic entry into the NATO universe; station an army representing all the members’ at Ukraine’s border with Russia. If this doesn’t stop Putin’s foolishness, then you’ll know you’re dealing with a madman. Putin’s army is depleted of weapons and Europe is looking (and finding) alternative fuel in Africa as I write this. The bully Putin is retreating on the battlefield and only his pride is driving him: he’s got little punch left. Time to knock him out!
kagni (Urbana)
@George you say “If this doesn’t stop Putin’s foolishness, then you’ll know you’re dealing with a madman. “ What is the next step you suggest?
George (NYC)
If NATO does what I suggested, Putin would think twice before doing anything else to up the ante. Just imagine the bully seeing the combined armies of the West pointing their guns at him.
She (Miami,FL)
@kagni You know he's suggesting assassination. (Mad dogs put down)
Counter Measures (Old Borough Park, NY)
If there is one thing for sure regarding the invasion of Ukraine, those following the excellent New York Times coverage are learning there are a lot more cities in the nation, besides Kviv!
robert blake (PA.)
I would supply the people whatever they need in weapons to attack Russia’s infrastructure. Enough is enough. Make the Russians feel the pain like the Ukrainian’s.
Wim Roffel (Netherlands)
Russia's primary motive for hitting the power infrastructure is to stop the trains that transport weapons to the front. In that respect this campaign is certainly working.
She (Miami,FL)
Reportedly, 69% of Ukrainians living in eastern Ukraine, where two independent republics have been set up, recognized only by a handful of countries, to be sure, support the continued military action against Russia. That is based on a poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. In stark contrast, the referendum recently conducted in eastern Ukraine allegedly validated that the majority of residents voted for self-determination. Eastern Ukraine set up two independent republics. They are self-governing entities, with their own courts, judicial system, police, etc. Their self-proclaimed independence is currently recognized by a handful of countries. So which is more likely to be an accurate assessment of the situation in eastern Ukraine? To be sure, both sides arrest those who think differently. The "waiters" are presumably Ukrainian "collaborators" or "separatists" if they fail to go over to Poland. On the other side, "waiters" may be identified as those who fail to seek temporary safety and refuge in Russia. Zelensky appealed to Ukranian nationalism, promising to bring back into the fold the two independent republics. After the coup the country divided, one facing the West, the other preferring to stay closer to Russia. The forcible intervention in the Donbas was one reason that precipitated Putin's invasion. Zelensky's decision to join Nato, also precipitated the conflict due to Moscow's long stated fear of encirclement. Negotiate for peace.
FreedomRocks76 (Washington)
@She Don't forget reparations and war crimes trials.
johnw (pa)
@She ..."Zelensky's decision to join Nato, also precipitated the conflict due to Moscow's long stated fear of encirclement"...or Putin's invasion? Which came first, the chicken or the egg"
She (Miami,FL)
@FreedomRocks76 Re: War crime trials The prison in Donbas that housed the Azov Battalion, accused of war crimes that uncovered mass graves in Donbas following the coup, who were scheduled to appear in a televised show trial was blown apart by someone around the same time that a Ukrainian prosecutor and his deputy--both dehumanized as "collaborators" or "separatists"-- were also blown up. War crime trials on both sides of the aisle. That will not happen, however, unless a special trial 9s announced, because neither the ULS. nor Russia are signatories to the ICC. Re: reparations I assume that the U.S. held sanction money will be routed for "reparations". We looted the money of Afghanistan to put in the 9-11 fund, notwithstanding the fact that children are starving over there, but they barely register a blip even on Unicef requests for donations. Re: freedom I agree that freedom rocks. The question is freedom for whom? What about the self-determination of the people who set up (two) separate republics in Donbas? Are they less worthy than the Ukrainian nationalists to enjoy freedom?
Jpriestly (Orlando, FL)
It is remarkable the level of support for continuing to fight Russia despite the obvious hardships people are having to endure. I see a self-governing Ukrainian people here - pretty united in resistance to Russia but also comfortable saying they want their own government to do better. It's admirable and we should do yet better in supporting them. There is worse to come - difficulty in getting clean water is nothing compared to widespread loss of electricity and heat, as is looming. Hopefully Americans and the West will realize this is the battle to deter an expansionist Russia (with China watching). Winning will be far better than losing, and we also need the maturity of Ukrainians to recognize that temporary deprivation is better than the alternative.
hank ramirez (San Diego)
@Jpriestly It is what we Americans do with Latin American countries to force them to change leaders that wish to help the poor. Label them as socialist and hit them with brutal sanctions forcing the hoi polli to turn against them.
She (Miami,FL)
@hank ramirez Sanctions don't change a government or the leader. It's part of the soft power arsenal we use for regime change. The fact that the poorest and most vulnerable suffer as a result is the point. Discontent contains the seeds of a prospective coup. Of course, more is required. Like in Ukraine, a democracy, we taught resistance skills, strengthened independent groups opposing the legitimate government and helped create a coup in a country willing to overturn their government for the promise of western glamour, not freedom. They were already free.
F Runkel (Twisp WA)
I appreciate this kind of photojournalism. It provides what seems to be a realistic look into the rough nitty-gritty realities of daily life for Ukrainians. It is difficult to understand what drives (some) human beings fo inflict this suffering on other humans, but turning our gaze away and to more comfortable things doesn't help.
She (Miami,FL)
@F Runkel I would appreciate some interviews with Ukrainian "collaborators" although that might be too dangerous for them, since separatists are arrested as traitors. After all, a great number of persons in eastern Ukraine especially, are angry at Kyiv since 2014 and have allegedly suffered greatly for their resistance. There is enough of them to have formed two republics in Donbas, yet we never hear anything, nothing at all, about who these people are and how they are suffering. I attribute that to biased reporting of the news. Alleged "patriotism" should be left at the door when observing events. Otherwise, it's propaganda.
Christopher (Brooklyn)
@She All of the reporting on Ukraine is propaganda. In the West we mainly get Western propaganda, but if you hunt you can find sources for Russian propaganda too. To get to the truth you need to read between the lines in both. The essence of propaganda is not so much that it is false, but rather that it is not reliably true. It mixes truths with half-truths, exaggerations, omissions and outright lies to construct a persuasive narrative. The mark of effective propaganda is that most people don't recognize it as such. This article is a good example. It tells a compelling story that acknowledges discontent with the government while reassuring us that everyone blames Russia and are determined to keep fighting. It mentions, almost in passing, that support for continuing the war drops to 69% in the eastern part of the country where most of the actual fighting is occurring, but it doesn't talk to any representatives of the 31% of who are presumably prepared to see concessions made to achieve a negotiated peace. We don't get to hear their voices or stories. Considering the circumstances of a foreign invasion, that 31% is actually a very high figure and will likely rise as temperatures drop. It underscores the ambivalence and ambiguity of Ukrainian national identity in the east and the south where many people are ethnic Russians and most people speak Russian better than they do Ukrainian. But their stories are inconvenient to the policies this article is intended to promote.
She (Miami,FL)
@Christopher I have not hunted for pro-Russia outlets where I am sure that I would find a different kind of propaganda, which would be equally upsetting. Am somewhat paranoid about surveillance, especially since the DOJ set up a Disinformation Governance Board, currently suspended. Am familiar with Joseph Goebbels, however, who advised ad hominem attacks when facts are not in one's favor, or repetition, and arguments that appeal to the emotions (photographs and anecdotes help) and instincts rather than the intellect. Astute analysis. Interesting insight regarding the ambiguous Ukrainian identity torn between the east and the west. I want to hear from my newspapers about the viewpoint of the 31% without having to get a subscription to Pravda in English. As articles about this conflict go, this was comparatively more credible than most, since there was more fact than opinion, with less lachrymose content.
See also