Russia and Ukraine could not agree on the unity of the two peoples

by Sami Burgaz
A street in Russia

For more than a decade the relation between East Slavs has been the subject of heated debate. In the past everybody believed that Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians were three branches of a single nation formed in ancient Russia. However, today the opposite point of view is spreading.

According to these views, the peoples mentioned are different nations located on different sides of the geopolitical rift between Europe and Asia. Even today, we see that the discussions on this issue have moved from the level of citizens to the level of heads of state.

That is to say, Russian President Vladimir Putin actually created a new ground, during the broadcast of “Direct Line” programme on June 30, where he answered questions from the public, explained why Ukraine was not included in Russia’s list of enemy countries. In the statement he said:

“I believe that Ukrainians and Russians in general are one nation. We are one. It is not the Ukrainian people who are enemy to Russia, but the current administration of Ukraine.”

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov explains in the news on what criteria are used to add a state the Russia’s list of “unfriendly countries” and what the list is:

“This is the list of the states that go beyond the limits of the reason in their hostility of towards Russia.”

The United States and Czech Republic are currently on list of “unfriendly countries” to Russia.

Russian President Putin has also spoken harshly about the draft law on the indigenous people of the country, which is prepared to be adopted in the Ukraine and does not include Russians. Putin emphasized that this could lead to the departure of some of the residents of Ukraine and a reduction in the total number of the Russians.

At the end of May 2021, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky presented to the Rada a draft law about the indigenous people. According to draft the ethnic communities that see themselves as local people, constitute a national minority and do not have a their own state administration are considered as local people of Ukraine.

The response from Ukraine regarding Putin’s statement was not delayed. According to the news of Moskovsky Komsomolets, referring to an interview of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky with Interfax-Ukraine, Zelensky said that although Ukrainians and Russians have much in common, they are not one nation.

Zelensky said that “If we were one nation then most likely our currency, Grivna, would be used in Moscow and our yellow-blue flag would fly over the State Duma. We are certainly not one nation! But the overall goal should be: ending the war in Donbass and “returning” the region to Ukraine.”

According to news on the website, which included the statement of the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kubela, the Minister said that there is a gap between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, and stated that, “The Ukrainians and the Russians are two different peoples. We could have lived as two good neighbours if Russia had not attacked Ukraine in 2014.”

Maria Zakharova, Spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has also participated in this discussion, which does not fall off the agenda. Commenting on the subject, Zakharova reminded that Zelensky, before being elected to the post of head of state on his Telegram channel, expressed the idea that he denied today in an interview with the “Municipal Gazette” in April 2014. In an interview that appeared on April 18, 2014, Zelensky said “The Ukrainian and Russian people are one nation.”

At the end of these discussions, at the meeting of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the draft law “On the indigenous peoples of Ukraine” which excludes the Russians from the list was accepted. 326 deputies voted in favor of the adoption of the law. The document will be signed by President Vladimir Zelensky.

In the 7 years that have passed between two statements, disagreements have escalated not only over political interests but also over invariable phenomenon such as ethnicity. The rise of the debates to the level of the nationality shows that the days when two states can establish political dialogue or reach peace are not near.


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