Kyiv Says Moscow Must Stop Referring to Ukrainians as a ‘Fraternal People’

October 9, 2014
A scene from a popular song on YouTube, "We Will Never Be Brothers" by the band Virgis Pupsys, with lyrics from a poem by Anastasiya Dmitruk.

Staunton, October 5 – At a time when many are unwilling to label Russian actions in Ukraine an invasion lest they offend Moscow or be forced to assume any responsibility for stopping it, a Ukrainian diplomat has introduced some clarity in the situation by demanding that Russian officials end their duplicitous practice of referring to Ukrainians as “a fraternal people.”

At a meeting in Warsaw last week of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Anatoly Viktorov, the head of the Russian delegation said that “that which is taking place in Ukraine is not simply an armed conflict of a non-international nature as the International Committee of the Red Cross says; this is a tragedy of the Ukrainian people who are fraternal to us.”

(In July, after the downing of MH17, the ICRC made a confidential legal assessment that the conflict was international in nature, but has not made a public statement–Ed.)

In response, Marianna Betsa, the head of the Ukrainian delegation to the meeting, said that she “would ask the members of the Russian delegation not to call our peoples fraternal.” That status, she suggested, was something that was now “in the past” rather than a description of current realities.

She was supported in this by Ambassador Daniel Baer, the US representative to the OSCE, who said that he believed “that it is obvious to all in this hall that the actions taken against the Ukrainian people” are anything but those of a “fraternal” people. To say otherwise would be “an enormous understatement.”

It seems unlikely that Moscow will cease and desist on this point any more than it has on other aggressive actions and statements about Ukraine, given the deep roots such verbiage have in the Soviet past and Vladimir Putin’s continuing invocation of this idea, most recently at the “Russia Calls” investment forum.

There the Kremlin leader said that “Ukraine is not a country which is alien for us…despite all the tragedy which we now observe, especially in the southeast, the Ukrainian people always was and remains the closest for us, a fraternal people. We are linked by ethnic, spiritual, religious and historical commonalities.”