A UKRAINIAN human rights worker now based in Cork has spoken of her concern and disappointment following a letter from Sabina Higgins, the wife of President Higgins, which she said was ‘full of Russian propaganda’.
Nadia Dobrianska fled Kiev with members of her family at the outset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and settled first in a north Cork location before moving to a house in Cork city.
The letter from Mrs Higgins was published in The Irish Times almost two weeks ago and sparked a controversy because, while it called for a cessation of hostilities and negotiations, it appeared to make an equivalence between the invading Russians and the defending Ukrainians.
“It never mentioned the reason for the conflict in the first place which is the invasion by the Russians of Ukraine,” said Nadia. “I’m not at all surprised that it’s been used by the Russians in their propaganda efforts.
“This letter gives the impression that both sides are fighting each other and now they must start talks, but fails to mention the Russian invasion or that Putin has said that ‘Ukraine does not need to exist’.”
Nadia said that she was also horrified that the letter appeared to be blaming both sides equally for the lack of food being supplied to Africa.
“This isn’t true as Russia is destroying Ukrainian crops on a daily basis and was also attacking Ukrainian ports, thus blocking the safe export of Ukrainian grain to Africa and other countries.”
While there’s an emerging narrative that if peace is to be achieved, it will require both sides to meet and have talks, irrespective of the fact that Russia is the aggressor while Ukraine is defending itself from an invasion by a vastly larger adversary.
“This ignores the fact that Putin has said the reason for the conflict is the independence of Ukraine and that the state of Ukraine does not need to exist.
“I don’t see space for talks when the stance of Russia is to completely destroy Ukraine.”
The letter from Mrs Higgins referred to an article from a prominent historian, Geoffrey Roberts, which appeared in the same paper in which it was proposed that Ukraine would have to cede the lands in Ukraine now occupied by Russian forces.
“The letter by Mrs. Higgins praises this article in which it’s suggested that the Ukraine ceding territory is what will lead to peace and safety for Ukrainians.
“There aren’t two sides to this - Russian forces are slaughtering people, raping women and destroying property every day in Ukraine - and this is being confirmed every day by Ukrainian human rights organisations - so if there are talks, this won’t stop the Russian missile attacks on lands in Ukraine not occupied by Russian forces.
“If there is ‘peace’ because lands are ceded to Russia, this won’t stop their attacks on lands they don’t occupy.”
Since the controversy erupted about her letter, Mrs Higgins has issued a statement clarifying that she has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine at its outset.