When it was already blindingly obvious that Russia was about to launch large-scale military actions in Ukraine, actions that Putin refers to as war today, for a long time a vast number of the Russian elite and the opposition-minded mass media refused to believe that this could actually happen. In 2021, when it would appear that everything was clear — they refused to countenance this possibility. In July 2021 Putin wrote an article where he openly talked about his goals and intentions in detail – and yet they would still not believe it. And when in September that year United Russia was led in the elections to the State Duma by the Minister of Defence — they still refused to face the facts. They refused to believe even when the Kremlin issued an ultimatum to the USA and NATO at the end of 2021 …

And on 24 February 2022, when it all started, they were shocked – “Who on earth could have thought that this might happen?!” They were convinced that this was actually true, they were frightened, they fled, they went into hiding…

“The special operation” in Ukraine has lasted now for almost a year. During this time thousands of people have died on both sides, entire cities have been destroyed and millions of people have been turned into refugees.

Today, however, we are witnessing first hand preparations for the launch of even more extensive military actions. At the same time, all the key participants in the conflict – Russia, Ukraine, the US, the EU, NATO, in tandem with crowds of the fans of war, sitting in cafes and restaurants, hotels and cosy flats, and similarly countless mass media outlets – are all demanding the continuation of the military actions, are fantasising about all manner of victories, acquisitions and turning points, are all agitating for new onslaughts.

Such “thinkers” – dreamers situated in places far away that are safe right now – call for the indispensable continuation of military actions until the final victory has been achieved, talk and talk on the pages of well-known magazines about the “wonderful parliamentary Russia of the future” and the need for “show trials”. Meanwhile various “analysts” clarify intelligently and coldly that for the time being there is no global demand for such trials …

And once again, as was the case a year ago, virtually nobody understands – or they are afraid of speaking out – that the risks and dangers are mounting in earnest and that in principle such developments, in other words, the continuation of military actions, will not yield any positive results. None at all!

If everything continues in the current vein:

Here it important to understand that in the 21st century the status and prosperity of a state and its citizens are contingent to a far greater degree on the role played by the country in the world than on the size of its territory and even natural resources. We live in an era where human capital is key. The future of the nation depends on its people, their freedoms, their creativity and education.

And we should not make any parallels between developments in Ukraine today and the events of World War II. 

No nuclear power has ever participated in a major military confrontation which affects its vital interests and prospects. This is a real threat. 

President Putin has both in the past and recently repeatedly talked about his readiness to use nuclear weapons.  We are reaching a point of no return that must be avoided at all costs. All this violence has to stop.

Everybody knows that many territorial disputes are endless. There is only one successful example of territorial integrity and peace – and that is the European Union. The union of European member states has rendered politically redundant the issue of sovereignty over the Alsace and Lorraine – many thousands of French and German citizens needlessly laid down their lives for the right to lay claim to this territory. The idea adopted by all member states of the European Union that the life, dignity and rights of the individual are worth more than any national borders, has become the underlying guarantor of peace in Europe.

This concept underpins the sole purpose of modern life. Sooner or later people in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus will realise that this is the key goal – peaceful co-existence with each other and other European countries. This is the sole path to peace. Admittedly, this involves a complex and protracted journey.

What should be done right now? Put a stop to all this! All other options are based on stupid and extremely dangerous illusions.

Sign a ceasefire agreement. Stop killing people!

The signing of a ceasefire agreement is not a treaty, is not about peace or even a truce or wide-ranging dialogue. This is a political demand which has the goal of saving lives. And this is what is most important today.

A ceasefire agreement is only the preliminary step – the very first step to the start to reach a settlement. As long the military actions continue and people continue dying, any attempts at discussions or negotiations are futile. That is why in the current circumstances a ceasefire agreement is inevitably the first step for any positive developments.

A ceasefire agreement is a political demand whose implementation is entirely and fully contingent on the desire and understanding of decision-makers. In practice this option is only feasible if at the very least Presidents Putin, Zelensky and Biden, and the senior leadership teams of the European Union and NATO, want this to happen. However, the problem is that none of them have expressed such a desire at present. Today all the parties intend to continue engaging in large-scale military actions, erroneously anticipating victory on the battleground, a success which is unattainable in this day and age. That is why we have to insist: we need a ceasefire! If this doesn’t happen, the consequences will be catastrophic, and as I said earlier, it is highly likely that any continuation would trigger irreversible destruction. 

There is one key issue here – the people dying every hour in this disaster can never be returned: the deaths of one-and-a-half-year old Makar and 15-year old Anya from Dnipro, or five-year old Milana from Donetsk, nine-year old Ivan and eight-year old Nina from Yeysk.

Continuation of the military actions in any form – via an offensive or positional warfare – will not yield any positive outcome either for Russia or Ukraine, or for Western countries.  Any continuation is an endless and irreparable tragedy. The dream of some people – to end the dispute once and for all “on the battle field” – is not possible. Nothing will stop Putin’s regime. Russia will not become powerless as a result of this war. It will remain one of the two biggest nuclear powers in the world

However, it is entirely possible to deprive Ukraine of its future – a country which has in the opinion of all global experts “become the largest state in Central Europe for the first time in modern history” over the past year – by putting at risk the country’s ability to restore its economy debilitated by the military actions. Such an escalation must be prevented.

It is crystal clear today that this must be stopped. All of it. And the parties should only try to talk once this has been done. The key is that nobody should be killed during this period. 

It is only then that it will be possible to discuss territorial issues, borders, the relocation of troops … Subsequently diplomacy will also be required – tough and difficult diplomacy, with inevitable setbacks and limitations. We have all found ourselves in a situation where we are left with only bad options or even worse ones. There are no longer any good options.

However, there is still one option to prevent any further needless loss of countless lives – stop the military action immediately. And today anyone who does not want to kill innocent people or does not want such killing to be done on their behalf must demand this option. Express your opinion, drawing on all the means that are still at your disposal today.

Shout out on every street: Come to your senses! Just stop!

(The image of Mariupol mass grave is by Peter Kovalev, TASS. The image is used in Novaya rasskas-gazeta’s cover)