Cannes, 2 March 2022
by Mark Porter
How ironical that the Russians, who are allegedly trying to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, a country with its Jewish stand-up comedian president whose family died in the holocaust, yesterday bombed Babi Yar killing five people. Babi Yar, in a secluded ravine in Kyiv, is the country’s Holocaust Memorial. For years all connections with Jews were denied. Putin could be a grotesque creation of the great English writer and allegorist, Lewis Carroll.
Babyn Yar, as it is called in Ukrainian, is one of Europe’s most prominent Holocaust memorials and is the biggest mass grave of the last war. It was bombed amid a brutal onslaught, and the damage quickly drew international condemnation. It came as a prelude to the 64km long column of tanks, war machines and 15,000 more troops. They also bombed a nearby radio tower killing five.
They also Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a tweet: “To the world: what is the point of saying ‘never again’ for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar? At least 5 killed. History repeating…,” Zelenskyy wrote in a tweet.
“Just now, a powerful barrage is underway. A missile hit the place where Babyn Yar memorial complex is located! Once again, these barbarians are murdering the victims of (the) Holocaust,” Andriy Yermak, Zelensky’s chief of staff, also wrote in a tweet.
Last year marked the 80th anniversary of Babi Yar massacre, the mass shooting of 34,000 Jews during the Holocaust. Babi Yar is a ravine near the centre of Kyiv, where the of Jews were killed within 48 hours in 1941 when the city was under Nazi occupation. The killing at the site was carried out by SS troops and local collaborators.
In an interview with CNN, the Ukrainian president said he had last seen his family three days ago, having been constantly moving between well-defended buildings in Kyiv.
Meanwhile, last night China was beginning to change its tune. In its strongest comments yet Beijing “deplored” the outbreak of conflict. In a statement from the government Beijing said it was “extremely concerned about the harm to civilians” in comments that came after a phone call between Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.
“Ukraine is willing to strengthen communications with China and looks forward to China playing a role in realising a ceasefire,” the Chinese statement said on Tuesday. It added that it respected “the territorial integrity of all countries”, but there was no indication of whether or not Beijing accepted Russia’s claim to the Crimean peninsula, or shared its recognition of separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
It marked a change in tone from February 24. When asked if the invasion represented a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman characterised the situation as due to “a combination of factors”, but did not describe it as a violation.
Reports were also coming in last night that anti-war protest were breaking out from St. Petersburg to Siberia. Russians loudly voiced their opposition to the invasion, with anti-war protests spreading to more than 50 cities. Police cracked down on the protests on February 27, detaining more than 2,700 people, according to the OVD-Info rights group.
Sergey Utkin, a Moscow based academic who has advised the government on EU Russia relations, was one of the first intellectuals to publicly condemn the invasion, describing it as an act of evil. He spoke of the importance for the people to be aware of the horror of what is going on, but are prevented from finding out by the overweening power of state media. But slowly, he thinks, the message is percolating through, he said in a interview with Matt Frei on Britain’s Channel 4.