Last month, yours truly published a video (the contents of which I totally stand by) outlining how the vast majority of Ukraine, including the capital city of Kiev, appeared to be more or less safe and free from danger, despite the ongoing war with Russia.
Bear in mind that it wasn’t me saying that these regions were safe – after all, how would I know one way or the other? I live in Dublin – I haven’t the foggiest idea what it’s like on the ground in eastern Europe, apart from what I read on the news like everybody else.
Most people with an opinion on this war aren’t in Ukraine, have never been to Ukraine, and don’t know anyone in Ukraine. Most people rely entirely on what foreign media says about this war to determine what’s actually happening, despite the fact that propaganda is rife and omnidirectional on both sides.
So rather than simply being content with unverifiable news reports, I did what any journalist worth their salt would do – I rang the people living and working in Ukraine to ask them directly.
As part of the video, we called up various hotels in regions such as Kiev in the midlands and Lviv in the far West, and asked them outright: “Is it safe there?”
The unanimous answer we got, which you can hear in the video above, was some variation of “Yes – everything is fine here. We have a normal situation.”
Which in fairness, made sense – after all, Kiev hadn’t seen any combat since April, almost half a year prior to the video. While I acknowledged in the piece that areas surrounding the combat zone were not totally secure, and that “sudden advances can take place in a war like this,” all the indicators on the ground were that the vast majority of the country was more or less peaceful.
That was last month, back in September.
Fast forward to this week, and the very same regions – such as Kiev, Lviv and more – have been shaken by a deadly Russian rocket barrage, in retaliation for Ukraine blowing up a bridge in Crimea.
⚡️ Explosions reported in Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Khmelnytsky, Dnipro, Lviv, Ternopil.
At least five explosions were heard in central Kyiv in the morning on Oct. 10. "Unfortunately, there are wounded and killed in several places," Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) October 10, 2022
Some would probably say that this shows that the people living in Kiev were wrong (and my report by extension). They’d say that it was dangerous the whole time in Kiev and Lviv after all.
But I would make an alternative suggestion: is it not possible that anywhere can become dangerous – even previously safe areas – when both sides seem dead set on escalation?
For example, if (God forbid) Putin decided to use nuclear weapons tomorrow, as he has been threatening to do, there are many places in Europe which are safe today which would no longer be safe after. Because the situation would have escalated. If everyone involved recklessly escalates with wild abandon, we can make anywhere as dangerous as we want to make it.
The reason the situation keeps escalating, of course, is because both sides seem to want it to. After all, when the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, laid out a peace proposal last week attempting to address the concerns of both sides, his tweet was utterly shot down in a hail of scorn, mockery and insults.
– Redo elections of annexed regions under UN supervision. Russia leaves if that is will of the people.
– Crimea formally part of Russia, as it has been since 1783 (until Khrushchev’s mistake).
– Water supply to Crimea assured.
– Ukraine remains neutral.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2022
Following his proposals, Musk added: “This is highly likely to be the outcome in the end – just a question of how many die before then. Also worth noting that a possible, albeit unlikely, outcome from this conflict is nuclear war.”
Also worth noting that a possible, albeit unlikely, outcome from this conflict is nuclear war
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 3, 2022
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov appeared to support Musk’s proposal, saying “It is very positive that somebody like Elon Musk is looking for a peaceful way out of this situation.”
However, Russia did not follow this up with any kind of agreement to peace talks, and has continued ramping up the conflict even further since.
Needless to say, the Kremlin initiated the war against Ukraine in the first place, not to mention the fact that they’re threatening to use nuclear weapons and launching missiles at civilian targets. They are absolutely guilty of heightening tensions – which is what one might predict from a ruthless ex-Soviet dictatorship. I frankly expect no less.
What is more surprising, however, is that the Western and Ukrainian governments don’t seem much interested in peace either. Musk was attacked not only by Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky, but by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who accused him of wanting to “let Russians murder and rape thousands more innocent Ukrainians.”
Those who propose Ukraine to give up on its people and land — presumably not to hurt Putin’s bruised ego or to save Ukraine from suffering — must stop using word “peace” as an euphemism to “let Russians murder and rape thousands more innocent Ukrainians, and grab more land”.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) October 3, 2022
You can disagree with Musk’s proposal all you want – you can say it wouldn’t work, or that an alternative approach is needed. All of that is perfectly fine. But this level of unbridled fury and aggression towards somebody who is simply attempting to broker peace seems unhelpful.
Twitter blue checks like chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov were even accusing Musk of pushing “Kremlin propaganda” simply because he called both sides to the negotiating table. The reaction bordered on the demented.
This is moral idiocy, repetition of Kremlin propaganda, a betrayal of Ukrainian courage & sacrifice, and puts a few minutes browsing Crimea on Wikipedia over the current horrific reality of Putin's bloody war. https://t.co/63rmDmqTzb
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) October 3, 2022
My point is, last month Kiev seemed safe to everyone living there, and this month it’s unsafe. If leaders on both sides keep fanning the flames of war, what other places will become unsafe next month? Will Finland and Poland be safe? Will Berlin or Paris? Will Dublin? You can make anywhere dangerous if you behave foolishly. Which is exactly what world governments are doing on both the Russian and Western side alike.
This is more than a moral question at this point – the “who’s right and who’s wrong” doesn’t really matter anymore at the end of the day. The “who started it” is not the pertinent point. When you’re dealing with a risk of continent-wide energy blackouts, civilian populations being bombed and nuclear war, what we need now is to find some peace terms that both sides can accept. And we won’t know what those terms are exactly until we can get both parties into a room to negotiate.
Peace should be the number one priority of everyone involved in this situation. And the fact that we have so many people on all sides cheerleading for war like it’s some kind of sport is frankly disgraceful.