The world must continue to stand its ground against Russia, says the historian

“We’ve seen that any appeasement of Russia actually encourages escalation, so it doesn’t work,” she said.

Like other Ukrainians, she dates the start of the war to 2014, when Russia occupied Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine, and says reckoning will be needed in the West that the leadership at that point had not done enough to stop Putin.

“So you’re not escalating? He actually takes that as the reason for the escalation. The inaction supports its escalation,” she said.

“If we allow him to take any gains from this absolutely horrific genocidal war he’s been fighting for a whole year, appeasement will lead to escalation, not the other way around.”

Khromeychuk, who has taught and commented at University College London The New York Timesis the author of The death of a soldier told by his sisterabout her brother and his death in 2017 while fighting with the Ukrainian army in the east of the country.

That account resonated with people who had lost siblings in other circumstances, she said, but it also helped readers understand the background to the war before the February 24 invasion last year.

The comments came after Putin, in a speech commemorating the 1941 Battle of Stalingrad, said he was leading a fight against “the ideology of Nazism in its modern form” – a false claim used in Russian propaganda to circulate to justify the war.


Putin has cited centuries of Russian control over Ukrainian territory to justify his invasion, while Khromeychuk and other historians have pointed to the country’s past as a sovereign state and “melting pot” of cultures in Eastern Europe.

“Putin is not the only problem. Putin in one way or another does not necessarily mean that other leaders will not continue the imperialist project,” she said.

“Russia must fail in Ukraine to the point where Russian society understands that the imperialist project no longer works for them and they must abandon it.

“In a way, it’s the only thing they have — that illusion of greatness — that the populace has to hold on to because they’re so poor, they’ve been fed this propaganda for so many years. But they have to understand that it doesn’t work for them.

“Unfortunately, I don’t really see a lot of evidence that that’s going to happen anytime soon.”

Like others, Khromeychuk sees Putin’s imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as a supporter of this imperial vision because he never opposed Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Khromeychuk spoke at the University of Sydney on Thursday evening and at the Australian National University in Canberra on Tuesday. The world must continue to stand its ground against Russia, says the historian

Callan Tansill

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