Ukrainian President Volomyr Zelensky declared once again Kiev’s intentions of joining the NATO alliance as it would, as he said, guarantee his country’s survival. The statement made on February 14 was on the same day that Ukrainian soldiers, who are tasked with defending the country from the supposedly impending Russian invasion, killed an ethnic Greek and a Russian-speaker in Donetsk, and injured another two Greeks. The attack was described as “politically motivated” because the victims were Russian-speakers and not Ukrainian.
Although Ukraine realistically has no prospect of joining NATO as the majority of the Europeans do not want to inherit the country’s issues with Russia, the US continues to give Kiev false hope of being able to join the alliance. None-the-less, Ukraine has become a critical partner of NATO, and despite the alliance supposedly upholding the values “of individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” Kiev’s authorities are far removed from the values that the bloc says it champions against so-called maligned force, namely Russia.
An ethnic Greek and a Russian-speaker from the village of Gratnitne in Kiev-controlled Donetsk were killed by Ukrainian soldiers on February 14. The village is directly on the Line of Contact and for this reason there is no exact information about who the soldiers were, to which unit they belonged and whether they will be referred to a military court. It would not be surprising if the murderers belong to a pro-Kiev Far Right militia and carried out the attack because of the tendency of Donetsk’s Greeks, believed to be up to 120,000-strong, to be pro-Russia.
Often, the war in Donbass is painted as an ethnic conflict between Ukrainians and Russians, but ignored in Western discourse is that this is a struggle against Kiev’s cultural and linguistic imperialism that is aimed against all ethnic minorities, including Greeks, Hungarians, Romanians and Poles, among others. It is recalled that on May 18 2021, Zelensky announced the introduction of the bill on the indigenous peoples of Ukraine for the “protection” of their rights.
According to the bill, the indigenous people of Ukraine are those who do not have a state entity outside of Ukraine, thus excluding Greeks, despite having lived on the territory of today’s Ukraine since 800BC, centuries before Ukraine was even a word. Although Western media were quick to report Zelensky’s statement that Russia would invade Ukraine on February 16, missing the irony in his statement regarding so-called US intelligence reports, they remain dead silent on Ukraine’s racist persecution of ethnic and linguistic minorities, with not a single Western media report on the murder of an ethnic Greek by Ukrainian soldiers thus far.
As Western media is consumed by rampant Russophobia, there is a desensitisation to the murder, rape and torture of Russian-speakers in areas of Donetsk and Luhansk controlled by Kiev’s forces. However, the senseless murder of a Greek is something less palatable for Western audiences, and for this reason there is still complete silence as the media focuses on the narrative of an impending Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Part of the Western propaganda effort is to paint Ukraine as a bastion of Western liberalism in Eastern Ukraine struggling against an authoritarian Russian aggressor. This is not only far removed from reality, but actually endangers Ukraine’s ethnic minorities more as reporting their grievances with Kiev and crimes persecuted against them goes against the propaganda narrative that Western media are trying to create, and thus such grievances and crimes do not get reported at all.
Responding to the murder of the ethnic Greek, the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “[Greek Foreign Minister] Nikos Dendias, has requested to speak by telephone with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, in order to emphasise, again, the need to protect the Greek Community in Ukraine.”
The wording of “in order to emphasise, again,” suggests that Dendias has complained previously about the treatment of the Greek community in Ukraine to Kuleba, likely during the former’s early February 2022 visit to the Donetsk cities of Mariupol and Sartana, where up to 120,000 Greeks live.
Greece has given no indication how far they intend to escalate this situation with Kiev, but given that Dendias is due to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on February 18, the issue of Donbass and its Greek community will certainly be discussed.
Talking about Dendias’ upcoming visit, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexandros Papaioannou said the meeting will focus on bilateral relations, economic and cultural cooperation, the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus, as well as developments in Eastern Europe. Papaioannou stressed that Athens treats Russia “as a key and integral part of the European security architecture.”
Given the death of an ethnic Greek, Dendias’ need to repeat to Kubela that ethnic Greeks need to be protected, and in addition to his upcoming visit to Moscow, Athens could become more vocal on the illiberalism of Kiev, despite Western media portrayals of the opposite. The death and injury of ethnic Greeks, who are not considered indigenous by Kiev despite living in the territory of Donetsk for millennia, is a stark reminder on how the current crisis in Ukraine was instigated – intolerance and racism against those who do not succumb to Ukrainization.
In this way, Kiev has just put another hurdle in front of its NATO membership ambitions as Athens will surely not give its vote of approval so long as ethnic Greeks continue to face persecution and repression, something that Zelensky is unwilling to stop.