My old friend Yuri told me the real story about the war in Ukraine - Steve Cardownie

One of my oldest friends from Ukraine is currently in Edinburgh and I have spent some time with him, discussing the current situation in his country. As an ex-Soviet tank commander I was interested to hear what he had to say about the conflict engulfing Ukraine.

I first met Yuri just over 30 years ago when I made my first visit to Kyiv as head of a Council delegation sent over to our Twin City to discuss several proposals for joint projects and we have remained life-long friends.

So, formerly in charge of twelve Soviet tanks stationed 70 kilometres outside Kyiv, I knew that his experience and knowledge would provide me with an invaluable insight into the war. He said his training in the Soviet army centred around the USA being “Enemy No 1” and he never in his wildest dreams would have thought that the USA would be an important supplier of weapons to Ukraine in a war against Russia. He stressed that Ukraine was never a threat to Russia and that the populations of both countries regarded themselves as part of an extended family, co-existing on a friendly basis and that it was only the warped mentality of Putin that has led both countries to be at loggerheads- with such devastating effect.

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Putin, he told me, boasted prior to the war, that Russia had the best missile system in the world, the best army, the best navy and the best tanks, all which have proven to have been idle boasts, laid bare at the hands of Ukraine’s armed forces and its people. He said that Ukraine’s resistance had taken Putin and his warmongering cohorts by surprise and they could not fathom out why the invading Russian army was not welcomed by Ukranians bearing gifts of bread and salt, casting flowers in the path of the marauding tanks, rather than the defiant response they witnessed.

Given that the Russian armed forces had failed in their attempt to sweep into the country and install a puppet regime, Moscow has now changed tack and is targeting civilian infrastructure to deprive the populace of heating, lighting and running water. With the onset of winter, when temperatures can regularly plummet below -25 degrees Celsius, Putin hopes to demoralise the Ukranian population to such an extent that they will sue for peace and accept any terms put forward by the Kremlin. According to Yuri, this response is no more than sheer “terrorism” where civilians, and not the armed forces, are targets. However, he is sure that this tactic is doomed to failure and that all it has done is stiffened the resolve of the Ukranian people to see out this conflict and to maintain their independence from Russia.

Yuri was abroad on holiday when he heard about the Russian invasion last February and, after taking a circuitous route back to Kyiv, he tried to join the army but his offer was declined due to his age. He and his son now transport much needed goods to villages in outlying areas of Ukraine where they are much sought after. In doing so he is constantly reminded of the strength and resilience of the Ukranian people and that Putin has no chance of beating them into submission.

People queuing up hold plastic bottles to refill drinking water from a tank in the center of Mykolaiv, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Since mid-April, citizens of Mykolaiv, with a pre-war population of half a million people, have lived without a centralized drinking water supply. Russian Forces cut off the pipeline through which the city received drinking water for the last 40 years. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)