UKRAINE and Russia have a troubled history.

In 1932-33 there was a catastrophic famine in Ukraine, which was entirely man-made, resulting from a deliberate policy directed by Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator. Stalin is idolised by Vladimir Putin. Known in Ukraine as the Holodomor (in Ukrainian, “murder by starvation”), 3.9 million Ukrainians died as a direct result of that famine. The UN estimated total deaths at seven to 10 million.

There have been claims by the Putin-controlled Russian parliament that this was not genocide, but it clearly was. Any starving Ukrainians fleeing to Russia had all their belongings confiscated, so Ukrainians were definitely targeted by the Russian Soviet authorities. Alongside this was the destruction of Ukrainian books and the suppression of the Ukrainian language in schools.

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These actions badly misfired, generating so much hatred and resentment that it solidified Ukrainian nationalism.

The Nazi invasion of 1941 opened up the whole situation as Soviet pressure was relieved. Ukrainian resistance which fought both the Nazis and Soviets emerged. From 1942 there was a ongoing struggle by Ukrainian nationalists that was to carry on well into the 1950s despite the best efforts of the Russian Soviet Red Army and state. This struggle would cost the Soviets 35,000 lives, making it twice as costly as the later Afghanistan War. This, despite the Soviet Russians arresting and deporting half a million Ukrainians to Siberia between 1944 and 1946.

The Ukrainians have long memories. 80-year-old grandmothers, remembering Stalin’s famine tactics and repression, are joining Ukrainian resistance groups, learning how to use weapons. 160,000 Russian troops are vastly outnumbered by 44 million Ukrainians, and crowds of Ukrainians are stopping tanks.

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Invading a country is one thing, occupying and controlling it is another. Ukrainian nationalists resisted the Red Army for more than ten years, with little or no support from abroad. Now there is virtually universal condemnation of the Russian invasion, with powerful opposition from both Nato and the EU, and from other countries around the world.

Russia is dependent on long, snaking pipelines to sell its gas resources which are extremely vulnerable to disruption, even to destruction.

Ukraine was only in the Soviet Union because of force and repression. Invading a free, sovereign nation when there is substantial opposition within Russia itself to such an invasion and the massive international opposition is a very risky gamble.

Add in the sheer length of Russia and its limited internal communications: the Trans-Siberian railway takes six days to get to Vladivostok. Vladivostok in the Far East, formerly part of China, is at risk. Every other treaty port, other than Vladivostok, has been reclaimed by a resurgent China. China may use the pretext of imposing sanctions and just take back Vladivostok.

Vladimir Putin has made a huge misjudgement. Swiftly investigating and targeting his offshore assets and his cronies may save both Ukraine and Russia from the deaths and destruction this misjudgement will cause.

Andrew Milroy

SO we have Johnson “addressing the country” and promising sanctions against Putin. For a prime minister of a country which has frequently attacked other sovereign states causing widespread destruction and deaths to come out with this rhetoric is breathtaking hypocrisy. There is also the call for Putin to be tried for war crimes. I cannot recall Blair appearing at the court in the Hague. On the contrary, the man is now a multimillionaire with a knighthood attached. Is an honorary knighthood for Putin forthcoming?

N M Shaw