‘Propaganda corridors': Is Ukraine right to reject civilian evacuation offer from Russia?
- On March 7, 2022, Ukraine denied Russia’s offer to let civilians travel to safety in “designated routes” to Russia or Belarus with Zelensky’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak asserting that “Russia is organizing propaganda corridors, not humanitarian ones.”
- After a third round of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, there were “small positive shifts regarding logistics of humanitarian corridors” in light of the weekend’s failed effort to make safe passage. Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s top negotiator, noted corridors will be functioning as soon as March 8, 2022.
- On February 28, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed an application for membership to the European Union after releasing a video calling for immediate entry and Russian forces to go home.
- Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, “unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks” with condemnation coming from the US, Europe, South Korea, Australia, and other countries.
The war between Russia and Ukraine continues, and by all accounts, it appears that the people of Ukraine are suffering. This has become a major humanitarian crisis, the likes of which have not been seen since the Second World war. And as in all wars, it is the poor civilians who face the enemy's wrath. So far, the exact number of Ukrainians killed is unknown, but the numbers are not minuscule. Hospitals and preschools have been bombed; the country is quickly running out of food and essential supplies. People who need emergency medical services have nowhere to go but to die or suffer from their injuries. Putin's mind has been made up, and it is unlikely he will reverse his course on Ukraine. The Russian army has already been accused of committing war crimes, and it does not look like they will stop its agenda.
For Ukraine, whatever demands Putin is making, President Zelensky should accept and save the lives of its citizens. The latest figures from the United Nations reveal that nearly 1.7 million Ukrainians have fled the country into neighboring Poland and Hungary. Each day, the number of refugees arriving is increasing. Ukraine does not have the military support it needs to win the war against Russia, and its neighbors are fearful of providing military assistance because of threats by Putin. For Ukraine, the only saving grace is to accept Moscow's demands, lay down the arms, and save its citizens from death. While this may not be a good option, the only other option is to continue fighting, lose more people, and guarantee total destruction of Ukraine. Zelensky needs to know he has global support if he desires to seek peace.
Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his cynical ploy to paint Russia as the humanitarian, if not the outright victim, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron met with Putin and requested that civilian populations freely leave the Ukrainian cities under Russian attack. Putin offered to allow civilian corridors to be opened—but only to Russia and Russian-ally Belarus. That's like inviting mice into a mousetrap. According to the French, that is not what Macron had in mind or had requested.
Ukraine sees this for what it is—Russia is trying to manipulate a sincere desire by French president Macron and others to help the situation. As Macron even said, 'I don't know many Ukrainians who want to seek refuge in Russia. That's hypocrisy.' Putin is offering this primarily as a way to reduce the resistance to Russia's invasion by Ukrainians. It is clearly not for what's best for Ukraine and its people. Ukrainians who flee into Russia or Belarus are more easily controlled than if they remain in Ukraine.
Ukraine has offered a counter-proposal to allow residents of Kyiv and Kharkiv to flee to western Ukraine. A much more reasonable and realistic alternative. Yet, this alternative offers no advantage, so Putin will likely not consider it.
As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times, 'The lesson from Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008 and seizure of Crimea in 2014 is that accepting the results of Russian aggression merely encourages more aggression.' The West must see it for what it is and act, not simply react accordingly.