Ukraine invasion: Edinburgh must show solidarity with its twin city Kiev – Susan Dalgety
Imagine Russian tanks rumbling through the streets of Nice on France’s south coast. Or Russian fighter jets bombing New Zealand’s beautiful city of Dunedin. Impossible? Probably. Unthinkable, definitely.
Yet, from last Thursday, Russian military vehicles streamed into Ukraine from the Crimea and Belarus, as thousands of terrified people desperately tried to escape Kyiv, the capital city.
Kyiv, or Kiev to give it its English spelling, is one of Edinburgh’s ten twin or sister cities, along with Nice and Dunedin. The rest are Florence in Italy, Aalborg in Denmark, San Diego on America’s west coast, Xi’an in China, Krakow in Poland and Florence in Italy.
Munich is our oldest twin, with that first agreement signed in 1954, only nine years after the end of the Second World War.
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The partnership between Munich and Edinburgh was a deliberate attempt by our two great cities to heal the wounds of the terrible conflict that had seen the slaughter of tens of millions of people across Europe.
Since that historic signing, friendships have flourished, and not just between municipal signatories. Hibs and Hearts even joined forces in 1985, as Edinburgh Select, to play the mighty Bayern Munich at Tynecastle. The Edinburgh team won the friendly 2-1.
We cemented our friendship with Kyiv, one of Europe’s oldest and largest cities, in 1989, just as freedom was coming to the countries in the Soviet bloc.
Just after the signing, the Berlin Wall came down, and countries like Estonia, Lithuania and Poland slowly emerged from the shackles of the Soviet Union to become modern European democracies.
Ukraine has struggled to escape Russian influence. In 2014, Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea, in the south of Ukraine, and continues to occupy it.
At the same time, two other regions, Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, fell into the hands of Russian-backed separatists and have been waging war against the rest of the Ukraine since, with a lot of help from Putin.
He is a different leader to the man who visited Edinburgh in 2003 and told the world in a speech from the Signet Library that the Cold War was over, adding that global challenges such as organised crime, mass epidemics and ethnic conflicts can only be met by “mutual respect and trust”.
Russia now regards Ukraine as part of its federation and Putin seems determined to have the country back under his iron grip, regardless of the human or diplomatic cost.
There is little we in Edinburgh can do to stop a bloodbath in our twin city of Kyiv. We must trust our own leaders to make the right decisions that will bring this terrible conflict to a swift end.
All we can do is show our solidarity to our friends in Kyiv, and across Ukraine. When a terrorist murdered 86 people during Bastille Day celebrations in Nice in July 2016, Edinburgh City Council lowered its flags to half-mast as a “mark of respect and support for all those affected.”
Symbols can be as important as words and deeds, so while our sister city is under attack, I hope the city council continues to fly the Ukranian flag high until Kyiv is free again. Let’s hope that is soon.