4 Sep 2014

Tell them please don’t think that Putin will stop at Ukraine’

All day long I’ve been watching Ukrainian armour retreat west. Tanks churned up the surface of the main road, leaving furrows in the tarmac. Scores of armoured personnel carriers, troop trucks and fuel bowsers, flying the turquoise-blue and yellow national flag, headed away from the Russian border.

“Our commanders are no good,” said Oleg, an English speaking member of the Kiev battalion, who was a lawyer in the Ukrainian capital before the war started in March. “I joined because I love my country but today we were told to retreat.” He, like others, is a volunteer in a privately funded battalion formed to back up the professional soldiers.

Enthusiasm, however, counts for little in the face of what Vladimir Putin reminded us the other day is “one of the world’s leading nuclear powers.”

Russia is one of the world’s most powerful conventional militaries too, as the soldiers camped at Dmitrivska, some 25 kilometres from the border, found in the early hours of this morning when four Smerch rockets slammed in, one hitting their sleeping quarters, another their ammunition store. Both were still in flames when we arrived a few hours later. The soldiers were packing up what remained and driving their trucks away. The Smerch is a Russian-made multiple rocket launcher with a 70 kilometre range. When I asked if it might have been the separatist rebels not the Russians firing the soldiers laughed. The rebels don’t have equipment like that.

We drove north to the tactical base at Orikhove, looking for a commander we could interview, but before we arrived we saw the trucks leaving – the base was being dismantled. A group of soldiers came up to talk – none would go on camera but all wanted to say how angry they were with their own government and with Nato.

“We should stay and fight,” said one. “The Russian sent Su 24s aircraft over and we tried to shoot them down but we failed. We need help.”


“We would have destroyed the rebels long ago if our government hadn’t hesitated,” said another.

They were convinced that the Russian “humanitarian convoy” sent to Luhansk, just 35 kilometres away, last week had been full of military supplies.

“Before that the rebels would shoot twice with artillery and we would respond four times. But after that they had endless artillery and we couldn’t even put our heads up.”

I asked if they had a message for Nato leaders meeting in Wales.

An older man with a slim, tanned face and a moustache leaned over the others from behind.

“Tell them please don’t think that Putin will stop at Ukraine. Remember, Hitler didn’t stop at Poland.”

We watched as the last few tank transporters and trucks moved down the hill, the weary, dispirited soldiers on top waving as they went past until the dust enveloped the convoy obscuring them from view.

Follow @lindseyhilsum on Twitter


Tweets by @lindseyhilsum

19 reader comments

  1. Beau says:

    “Tell them please don’t think that Putin will stop at Ukraine. Remember, Hitler didn’t stop at Poland.”

    Tssst. That’s not good journalism.

    I guess the irony of the Hitler analogy was lost on neoNAZI Ukranians and Lindsey.

    And like Hitler before them, ethnic cleansing and prodding the bear is not a good idea when you’re up against Russians…

    Putin is only interested in trade and Russia being at the top table and likes to be treated with respect…

  2. Voice of Africa 3 says:

    Russia is 100 times better than EU an NATO. The truth is the Russian Federation, United States and the UK are all decentralised governments, all great nations are, but why not Ukraine, because the western Ukrainians have wicked plans. Once a saborteour, always a saborteour.

  3. Jan Novak says:

    Hopefully so called separatists will free Eastern Ukraine from Nazi Kiev army.

  4. alex says:

    Shameful, one side article. No mention of the over 2,000 civilians killed by the Kiev regime.

  5. Stefan Slim says:

    Incredible we can get HD video in the media from Iraq but nothing of Russian tanks and soldiers in Ukraine! The soldiers lay down their weapons because they know Russia has them, as Ukrainians to heart as a People; those chosen fascists are tearing and sharing that country apart for Western style taxes and poverty. Putin for all his faults needs to protect and take back her wheatfields, in total.

  6. Dj Footprint says:

    @ Beau – ‘Tssst’ – That’s not good Pro-Putin boot-licking – of which you are so fond of posting on these blogs. Last week happened to be my birthday – and out of curiosity, i had a look at the ‘History Website’ – to see the events that had happened on that day throughout history.

    1941 – The mass slaughter of 23,000 Ukranians by the Gestapo. (In ONE day).

    Now ask yourself (which i doubt you will do, given your repeated and regurgitated posts – anti-Ukranian / anti-Lindsey Hilsum) – why would the Ukranian people support Nazi’s?

    I think you seriously need to learn some history. Mine began nearly 40 years ago, whilst still not a teenager – from my Father (especially), and also from Uncles – all of which had been subjected in various ways to the horrors of WW2. – Which further developed a very keen interest in history myself. (Which in terms of scholarly achievements, gained me a qualification in USSR / Russian history alone – besides others).

    And you? (Or was the history of ‘Mother Russia’ a forced topic for you, in ‘School No.24’?)

    If you’re going to post ‘comments’ – at least try not to come across as a troll, or a ‘Putin-bot’ – as you seem to be.

    By the way – did you miss (or choose to miss) the rest of the report, regarding the Smerch Rockets – and the sudden gain in armaments by the Separatists – so soon after the supposed ‘Humanitarian Aid Convoy’

  7. ButtHead says:

    This report is full of allegations and hearsay without providing proof rather than biases of the editor. Why this panoply of weaponry is in retreat while the strategic town of Mariupol is defended by several hundred of bare handed members of Neo-Nazi people battalion?
    Why the “editor” is jumping to here own conclusions instead of interviewing people and openly asking them for their opinion like Vice News do?

  8. M says:

    Dear Lindsey,
    with this kind of wardrums propaganda you are actively committing Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace, as defined by Nuremberg trials.
    This is once again lies and lies and lies. Just like thousands of tons of Iraq’s WMD, which were never found (and Saddam informed US before the war that he had none, as reported by Washington Post).
    Where is evidence of dozens and hundreds of Russian tanks fighting in Ukraine? None. Zero.
    US satellites have none photos, US drones have no photos, not even Ukraine soldiers have any photo from mobile.
    Where is the convoy of 70 Russian tanks destroyed by Ukie artillery several weeks ago? Oh, nothing left, nothing to show but “believe Lysenko”
    Where is photo or video of the convoy of 120 which miraculously got int completely encircled Luhansk several days ago? Oh, we must believe Lysenko and Poroshenko.
    Where is the indisputable evidence (promised by US) that the Malaysian flight MH17 was shot down by separatist and not by Kiev Nazi junta?
    Who shot the police and demonstrators on Maidan when Berkut is innocence as stated by Ukrainian general prosecutor?

    So, once again – you are actively committing Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace, as defined by Nuremberg trials.
    This kind of propaganda you promote has already cost so far between 1- 2 million lives lost in Iraq, Libya, Syria. And now thousands in Ukraine.
    Those innocent people are awaiting you in purgatory

  9. Tom Beveridge says:

    Hitler didn’t stop at Ukraine but he was stopped at Stalingrad and Putin is just trying to make sure he doesn’t have to do the same again against the war mongers of NATO & their nazi puppets.Privately funded toy soldiers are getting a reality check after believing the propaganda of the Odessa murderers.Watch a you tube video or two on Gladio,Lindsay & stop spreading the lies of Obama & Cameron.The shells & rockets that have killed more than 2000 civilians were probably made in Russia too,keep up your good work & it’ll be 200,000 dead thanks to munitions made by the “free” West.

  10. daniela says:

    I fear any one person who appear to have a large complex & distorted ego ( A psychiatrist might have a diagnoses for such a person) who is steering a country. He is a man who NEEDS his ego massaged to calm his very young rage. In this rage he acts like a little boy with a very large weapon. He cannot be trusted if I am right about the above.

  11. Charlie says:

    Good article but would have liked more depth ..yes the analogy between Hitler and Putin is correct in one sense , though Putin is acting with more desperation than Hitler, more like prodding the shambling broken bear.

  12. Baguamarsbar says:

    Poor bloody Ukraine! The soldier was right if Putin isn’t taught that he can’t get away with this hitler style sudatenland trick then we are likely to end up in a year or two defending Warsaw against an emboldened Russian army. We must act now or risk world war three later.

  13. Davefl says:

    Lindsey maybe all he wants is that Russians are allowed to speak Russian in the Ukraine and not be discriminated against and payment for the gas bill ?
    Maybe he doesnt feel comfortable with such loose cannons on his doorstep

    It could be a cold winter in Germany if this stoking the fire by the media, NATO the US and EU gets any hotter

  14. Alan says:

    Well if Russia will place it’s country so close to all those NATO bases what can they expect?
    The world is composed of Team America and the enemy.
    NATO should bomb any nation that opposes Team America’s claims.
    Russia needs to get with the program.
    Any head of state who opposes Team America is Hitler. (Hitler sure does get around)
    Any one who questions Team America is a conspiracy theorist.
    Scary to think that western media outlets believe the above.

  15. Charles says:

    I have many Ukrainian friends all of them in uk all they telling me is that East is fighting neo nazis why is west not helping them why west is supporting neonazi government all media that’s one big lie. All you need to do is turn on YouTube and find the truth there,many videos showing all the civilian killing made by Ukrainian army soldiers,why this is not in news !!!!!!! American puppets !!!!

  16. David Hawkins says:

    “please don’t think that Putin will stop at Ukraine”

    Well let me suggest something concrete that the West can do.

    There are 300,000 Russian speaking residents in Latvia who are denied the most basic civil rights: the right to vote, have a passport or get a government job.

    Imagine the outrage if Welsh speakers were required to take an English language test to acquire a British passport ?

    The European Court seems anxious that British criminals should be able to vote, so what about the 300,000 Russian speaking Latvian residents whose only crime is to speak the wrong language ?

    Why was Latvia allowed to join the EU and NATO and why isn’t her membership suspended until this manifest injustice is corrected ?

    “Alla Berezovska is 50 years old. She came to Riga from Russia as a little girl. Alla fought for Latvian independence from the Soviet Union – yet she did not become a Latvian citizen….

    There are now two societies living alongside each other in this country: the Latvian and the Russian,” she says. “But it can’t be right that the Latvians get to tell everyone what language our children are supposed to learn, which festival days are celebrated, and which aren’t.” (DW.DE)

    So rather than demonising Putin, why doesn’t Lindsey Hilsum uses some of her considerable journalistic skills to inform the British public about the CAUSES of discontent amongst the Russian speaking residents of the Baltic States ? Putin can’t exploit a grievance that has been rectified.

  17. Philip says:

    I see the Putin apologists have gathered in force. It’s a bit like any mention of the EU and the UKIP vultures flock.
    Putin has achieved only a modest amount with his bully boy tactics. He was caught out by the revulsion in the Western & Central Ukraine at dropping the proposed links with the EU – and the subsequent discovery of Lukashenko’s lavish living style. If he’d had any sense, he’d have allowed the revolution against the previous regime to run out of steam, fall apart and revert to voting for stability (in the Russian style) rather than chaos, as happened after the “Orange Revolution”. But he’s a bit like a little boy who got bullied at school, but now has power over those that bullied him. He has to puff out his chest and show that he’s stronger than them. hence annexing the Crimea and, when his proxies were losing in the east, supplying them with weapons & military support. As he doesn’t wish to admit he’s got troops in the Ukraine or firing from over the border, journalists aren’t permitted to be in the area….except those who will report what he wants. he may get some form of independent or semi-independent eastern Ukraine, but the cost will be high. Russia’s economy is dependent on its natural resources exports. The West has been awakened to the fact that Putin isn’t a reliable trading partner, and will use any economic leverage he can to prevent people stopping him doing what he wants. The West is already searching for alternative sources of energy and to build pipelines elsewhere to other possible export markets for Russian oil & gas will be prohibitively expensive. This exercise of egotistical machoism will be at the expense of the Russian economy and its people in the medium term. It has pushed Kiev into the arms of the EU – exactly what Putin told Lukashenko to prevent.
    And please stop calling he Kiev government “fascists” or “nazis”. It just shows you’re spouting Russian propaganda.
    It’s also worth remembering the difference between a reported quoting someone (e.g. Hitler didn’t stop at Poland”) and a reporter’s views and the tenor of the report. Most of us can tell that one protagonist in a conflict is giving their view, not providing a balanced summary.
    And for the re3cord, I’m sure that the Kiev government’s actions haven’t been whiter than white, but many of the comments above compelled me to try to set a balance.

    1. alex says:

      Never read so much rubbish.

  18. Andrew says:

    It’s clear from the pro Russia comments that a worrying degree of nationalism is at play in Russia – largely I suspect due to lack of free press in that country and a huge amount of propaganda. If Russians want respect in the world, rather than achieving it by force, why don’t they work on developing their society with the rule of law, free press and economic progress.

    Creating fear is different to respect – currently the world fears a backward country.

Comments are closed.