›› Ukraine: A Political Comment ‹‹

by Gay Celluloid editor-in-chief: David Hall.

Almost one year to the day in which Vladimir Putin ordered his military to invade Ukraine and in doing so committed the biggest mistake of his political career, he stood before an assembly of yes-men in a national address to brazenly declare that the war in Ukraine is the fault of the West and moreover a direct consequence of Ukraine having sought to defend itself against an invading force, aided by the West in our joint values of freedom of speech and civil liberties.

Only for all of the bravado of an autocrat facing an uncertain future, Putin knows only too well that his 'special military operation' has not gone as he had planned; indeed, anything but, having resulted with the expansion of NATO on Russia's doorstep and President Biden declaring that Putin's “lust for land and power will fail” and who hours earlier and in a clear show of solidarity stood next to President Zelenskyy in Kyiv, namely the city that Putin had wanted to be photographed in; akin to Hitler in Paris.

How long this bloody war will continue, is however the unanswered question, with Putin, ever unapologetic, citing a long-term fight to take Ukraine by force. Yet wars cost, not only in terms of the human casualties of a prolonged conflict and the ever rising death toll on both sides of a battle that has already resulted with Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II. But equally in terms of finance. Put simply, Putin is ploughing millions of rubles into this war, primarily for military supplies and ammunition, but also for border and internal security; the latter to forcefully quell any descent within the ranks should anyone speak out against the state controlled propaganda, as broadcast daily on the Putin news network.

Yet Russia does not have the money that it did, prior to the first Russian soldier setting foot in Ukraine. For as Putin tried to weaponize fuel to the West, the outcome instead was that the West was forced to take a long overdue review of its reliance on Russian oil and gas imports, rapidly seeking alternative supplies and a renewed priority to develop green energy projects. The consequence of which, along with other sanctions imposed, was a reduction of revenue at the very time that Putin needed more income to finance his war machine.

Counting on Western resolve to weaken for Ukraine as the conflict continues to enable a second, if not a third wave of brutal attacks to achieve what the first failed to do, such is but a political gamble on Putin's part, given and at the moment, the West stands united in its support for Ukraine and of their courageous fight for freedom to ensure that a puppet President does not impose on Ukraine the restrictions on civil liberties that those living under an authoritarian regime, are all too aware of.

Televising stage managed support for the invasion of Ukraine and scenes of orchestrated mass adulation for their leader, the Russian people will eventually have to address the reality of what their country – their president, has done, with many having seemingly not only turned a blind eye to the barbarity of the conflict, but actually in agreement with it, only for the bitter truth of Putin's 'special military operation' to hit home when their son or grandson returns to the motherland in a body bag, leaving those left mourning unable to confront those responsible for turning their country into a pariah state and in the process having rolled back decades of post-Cold War economic growth. And if Putin opts to call this a victory, then it's a pyrrhic one.

That the future of Ukraine and indeed the whole of the free world depends on the outcome of this war, makes what happens in the coming months of concern to all of us and in particular to those countries that border Russia; albeit apart from China that today not only reaffirmed its close ties to Russia, but has in effect become Putin's lifeline amid the economic ramifications of ever increasing sanctions, even if many a politician is now getting tired of a man who in desperation is constantly ramping up the fear of a nuclear conflict, only to fail to mention that the West equally has a nuclear arsenal to return fire, should any leader be foolish enough to instigate Armageddon.

That the Ukrainian people have demonstrated extreme resilience in fighting for their independence as a country and for their very freedom, goes without saying. And here, my heart goes out to all of the countless men, women and children who have lost their country, their limbs, if not their life itself in a savage war that was begun on the orders of one man when on the 24th February 2022 and contrary to Putin's denial of the facts, Russia invaded Ukraine and in doing so, brought international condemnation to a country that is now synonymous with an ever expanding list of heinous war crimes. And always will be to its guilt and shame.

Yet what is equally apparent is how totalitarian states come to the aid of one another, with China whilst 'officially neutral' all but 'pro Russia' by nature, having repeatedly failed to utter a single word of denunciation of a man whose violation of Ukraine's sovereign borders resulted in the destruction of town after city after town, with the once vibrant city of Mariupol all but reduced to rubble, whilst the mass graves of Bucha shocked the world with images of the tortured remains of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers alike, only for all too many of their comrades to be left to somehow survive in Russia's notorious POW camps; their relatives unsure if their loved ones are dead or alive.

Is it any surprise then that the Ukrainian people will never forgive their 'once friendly neighbour' as they lie in their beds at night, ever wondering if they, their family and friends will be alive come sunrise, as an air raid siren signals yet another round of Russia's relentless targeting of buildings, infrastructure and the very homes in which innocent men, women and children are doing their best just to survive, all too many without water, electricity and heat.

But with over 100,000 civilian deaths and thousands of reported war crimes, including abhorrent accounts of rape and torture, the UK government knows only too well that it cannot criticize China too strongly, if at all, for their collaborative support for Putin, let alone their appalling human rights record, not when China owns billions in UK assets, including a 33.5% stake in the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, a 49% share of Neptune Energy and therein Cygnus, the UK's largest gas field, to outright ownership via Hutchisons Port Holdings of Britain's busiest port, Felixstowe in Suffolk.

Yet what this horrific war has shown and continues to show is the best and conversely the worst of humanity. From those who have offered the outstretched hand of compassion in supplying medical aid, shelter and care for the thousands of casualties and refugees of this conflict, to those that instigated the war in the first place, without any remorse for the aftermath of such, including the lives of their own soldiers who are but cannon fodder in Putin's mind to achieve his end goal. Above all however, what Russia and the free world has seen is the unwavering spirit of the Ukrainian people to fight for the very country that they clearly love so much and one in which they will continue to fight for, no matter what the future holds. And to Putin's cost, he now knows that Ukraine will and in the words of Churchill – never surrender.

And if by chance you're asking yourself just what this has to do with a website devoted to gay film reviews, then put it this way; independent film-making and in particular works that depict same-sex love are a sign of a country in which political, sexual and personal freedom are part of its core values. Which is why no gay film industry exists in such despotic countries as Iran, North Korea and Russia, to name but three. But then, is that of any surprise?

›› posted: Wednesday, 22nd February, 2023.

Just recently my local area experienced a sudden water cut. For twelve hours or so, we were without water and unexpectedly faced the reality of a water shortage; namely no water for personal hygiene and sanitation – think flushing the toilet, through to cooking, having a cup of your favourite brew, right down to the basic necessity of water as a means of life, itself. But we were lucky, in that we still had electricity for lighting and heating and moreover knew that "normal service would be resumed" by the morning; as indeed it was. During this period however, my thoughts turned to those living in Ukraine, who face endless days and nights, if not weeks, without water, electricity and heating, as a direct result of Putin's targeted strikes on Ukraine's civilian infrastructure, aided by Russia's new-found war ally Iran and their supply of attack drones, actions that amount to genocide through hypothermia.

Or to put this another way, whilst here in the UK we are in the midst of a series of strikes; from rail services to postal deliveries and even the NHS, such industrial action and whatever your view on it be, is nothing when compared to the relentless missile / drone strikes of Russian's armed forces on Ukraine and the suffering of countless innocent men, woman and children caught up in a war that no-one wanted, apart that is from one man so naïve as to believe that he would be able to bask in the glory of victory within days, having grossly underestimated the resolve and sheer courage of the people of Ukraine to fight for the country that is their and NOT Russia's homeland.

Indeed, as we now enter 300 plus days of this inhumane conflict on Europe's doorstep, President Zelenskyy made a crucial foreign trip to America for a face-to-face meeting with President Biden and thereafter a heartfelt address to a joint session of Congress, thanking every American for their support of Ukraine, whilst equally highlighting the need for America's continuing financial and military backing in their fight for freedom. Only the reality of fighting for freedom at this time of year, is akin to the appalling Winter conditions of trench warfare experienced during World War I. That hundreds more lives will be lost on both sides in this seemingly unrelenting war, is far removed from the true spirit of Christmas, but is instead indicative of the horrifying reality of war itself.

Yet whatever the outcome of Putin's brutal vendetta against Ukraine be, his name is now synonymous with the vile despots of history, who like Hitler eventually fall from power in absolute ignominy. Indeed, as the free world celebrates Christmas and within days counts down to the New Year, the Russian people and in particular those who know the unspoken, indeed unbroadcast truth, must surely now decide whether they want to be forever associated with the stigma of a man who has left their country all but a pariah state, reduced to forming allies with such authoritarian regimes as the likes of China, Iran and North Korea. For just as you can judge the nature of a man by the company, or in this case the countries he keeps, you can equally tell the compassion of those whose thoughts and prayers are with the Ukrainian people. May God bless them and bring Ukraine the peace, they so rightly deserve.

›› posted: Thursday, 22nd December, 2022.

As the free world mourns the passing of former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, it is only right to remember the achievements of a man who more than just helped end the Cold War. Indeed, just where do you start in detailing the momentous events of his political career; from having successfully negotiated with then US President Ronald Reagan for the abolition of a whole class of weapons, including nuclear, to finally ending Russia's bloody and frankly humiliating occupation of Afghanistan.

Yet whilst many will equally remember Gorbachev as the man who sought to bring openness / glasnost to Russia, by far his greatest achievement, at least in the view of the free world, was to allow; albeit with initial military opposition, the break-up of the USSR, with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia's independence starting a roller-coaster that culminated in the fall of the Berlin wall when on the 9th November, 1989 the citizens of East Germany and after a series of mass demonstrations, were finally allowed to cross freely into West Berlin. Putin's reaction would have been to send in the tanks and target innocent men, women and children; whereas Gorbachev did not oppose the reunification of Germany, announcing it instead as "an internal German affair".

That Gorbachev was a man of peace is all but clear, having been awarded in 1990 the Nobel Peace Prize for his "leading role in the radical changes in East-West relations". Only the communist old guard had never gone away and therein lay Gorbachev's downfall, by way of a military coup the year after.

Looking back at Gorbachev's presidency, it's almost impossible to visualize the Russia of his day and that of its political freedoms, with the brutal regime of today. That he remained a strong critic of Vladimir Putin is of no surprise, citing that "politics is increasingly turning into imitation democracy, with all the power in the hands of the executive branch". Or one individual, for that matter. Yet notably in 2014, Gorbachev defended the referendum that led to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Only and whilst greatly respected in the West, many in Russia do not view him as "one of the most outstanding Statesmen of modern times" ironically the words of Putin himself spoken on Gorbachev's 90th birthday, having never forgiven him for the collapse of the Soviet Union, an opinion that the Putin news network is keen to exploit, having downplayed his many achievements, opting instead to focus on the break-up of the USSR so as to depict Putin as the man determined to bring counties such as Ukraine, back under Russian rule.

That Putin has played his own part in "radical changes in East-West relations" goes without saying: but not in a good way, with East-West relations now at an all time low and Russia all but a pariah state: the very definition of authoritarianism. And therein lies a telling juxtaposition of the Russia of Mikhail Gorbachev's presidency and the Russia of Putin's tyranny, making many wonder if the Russian people have now forgotten the social and political freedoms they used to have, not that long ago?

›› posted: Tuesday, 30th August, 2022.

As Ukraine marked the 31st anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union; albeit in an understandably subdued manner, the world stood back to reflect on six months of Putin's brutal war against the people of Ukraine and their very right for sovereignty; that of an on-going conflict that has seen the lives of ordinary Ukrainian men, women and children, forever changed.

Yet and in spite of all of Putin's bravado, this was not how his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine was meant to have played out. For what was to be a short-lived conflict, having been cited to be over by the 8th March, has since turned into a full-scale war that's clearly going to continue for months ahead, with all too many deaths on both sides of the military divide.

For outgunned and outnumbered, the valiant Ukrainian army continues to fight back, even if some question if foreign training and equipment (of the 'too few and too late' variety) will help secure the victory they so long for and frankly, deserve. For despite tens of thousands of its citizens having sought sanctuary across Europe, Ukraine has never been more reunited, even if some say the resolve of a number of Western leaders is beginning to wane as the cost of living crisis hits home.

This war however was never going to be over within months and the consequences of it, having showed the world the sheer savagery of Putin's ever increasing catalogue of horrific war crimes, has resulted much to Putin's wrath with the hitherto neutral countries of Finland and Sweden not surprisingly apply for and being granted swift accession to NATO. And whilst many of the financial sanctions imposed initially by the West on Russia have since weakened, there's no doubt that the certainty of a longer war raises the political stakes for Putin now knowing that a full-scale occupation of Ukraine is clearly not tenable, nor for that matter Putin's forces having the ability to permanently secure both the Donetsk region and Crimea, as Ukraine increasingly goes on the offensive.

That the West is now making plans to be free of its reliance on Russian gas and oil supplies, is akin to shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Yet at some point Russia will find the demand for its gas and oil significantly reduced and with it the billion dollars a day funding for its war machine. That perhaps distant, point cannot come too soon. But in the meantime, Ukraine not only needs but deserves our continued support in its courageous fight for freedom against a cold-blooded despot directly responsible for:
  • the invasion of an Independent Country,
  • resulting in Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II,
  • the relentless bombing of hospitals, maternity wards, schools and any place of refuge,
  • the 'pro-Russia re-education' of abducted Ukrainian teenagers and children,
  • the savage rape of Ukrainian women and girls,
  • the inhumane torture of captured Ukrainian soldiers,
  • the mass murder of innocent Ukrainian men,
  • the complete destruction of the former vibrant city of Mariupol and other such cities and villages,
  • the mockery of justice that is Russia's show trails of Ukrainian prisoners of war,
  • playing with atomic fire by using Zaporizhzhia, Europe's largest nuclear power plant, as a war hostage,
  • the deliberate withholding of food, water and medical aid from Ukrainian civilians until they accept Russian passports,
  • the use of gas, oil and even grain supplies as political leverage.
This is the Russia of today: the sickening reality of Putin's unforgivable actions. That Ukraine will never be the same again, goes without saying. But neither will the world view of Russia; that of a regime synonymous with acts of barbarity, misinformation and the very denial of the abhorrent war crimes carried out by Putin's dogs of war in Bucha and other cities that rightly shocked the international community. Yet in all of this one thing is clear and in spite of all of Russia's military might and intensified State propaganda, Ukraine will never be conquered and will fight to the bitter end to remain a sovereign and independent state. Their resolve will never weaken; our support for them must not either, even in the face of the escalating cost of living energy crisis.

›› posted: Wednesday, 24th August, 2022.

As if the war in Ukraine could not get any worse; sadly it has, as news reaches the West that Putin, desperate for victory at any cost, has appointed General Alexander Dvornikov; aka the Butcher of Syria to take command of his military campaign of slaughter. Notorious for having been responsible for more than 350,000 people killed in the Syrian conflict, there is little doubt that Dvornikov will employ the same horrific methods in Ukraine, in the continuation of Putin's scorched earth policy. Or as Rich Lowry of the New York Post so succinctly said: "where the Russian military goes, war crimes are sure to follow" in their utter disregard for humanity.

As the list of Putin's documented war crimes grows ever longer, including rape as a weapon of war, the West responses with their custom variant on the line: "those responsible will be held accountable for their actions." Yet just as a break in hostilities from Russia to allow civilians to flee the war turned out by large and not surprisingly, to be an empty promise, so too as these – empty words. For those committing such acts of cruelty; from those giving the orders, to those carrying out war crimes on their masters' behest, will never face prosecution. For whilst the free world can unanimously agree that Putin and his Generals of War must be brought in front of the International Criminal Court so that justice can prevail for the victims of Bucha, Mariupol and Ukraine as a country, at the same time and whilst Ukraine has filed a case against Russia at the International Court of Justice, should that court rule against Russia, the body responsible for enforcing any punishment is the United Nations Security Council, over which Russia currently holds the power of veto.

That thousands more will be maimed and killed in this war, is all but apparent. Just as it is clear that the West says one thing, whilst acting to the contrary; rightly condemning the appalling atrocities being committed on a daily basis, whilst still buying Putin's gas and oil to the value of a billion dollars a day. That this is now blood oil and gas, is not in doubt. The question is however; just how long will the West continue to buy it and by doing so, literally fund Russia's war machine?

›› posted: Tuesday, 12th April, 2022.

Seldom do I comment on the politics of the day; albeit from ever campaigning for gay rights in countries still devoid of the sexual freedoms and legal rights that we take for granted in the West. But at times things need to be said and the appalling situation in Ukraine, is one of them.

As Putin's bloody war in Ukraine rages on, the free world has been left to watch in horror how the lives of ordinary men, women and children, many Russian speaking, have been forever changed, caught in Putin's barbaric attack on Ukraine; a policy that is clearly now one of apocalyptic destruction, alongside mass starvation, if not a campaign of genocide itself. Seen throughout the free world on live news feeds and social media are the harrowing personal testimonies of those fleeing a war zone in absolute terror; testament to a man intent on leaving a living hell in his wake.

Yet whilst Putin, seemingly secure in the Kremlin is highly unlikely to ever face charges of war crimes in The Hague, such charges should equally be made against the generals and military commanders who deliberately fire missiles on the innocent; being only too happy to bomb hospitals, maternity wards, schools and any place of refuge from this barbaric war. As too, Sergey Lavrov; Minister for Lies, Misinformation and the Denial of War Crimes, must equally face his day in court as a willing collaborator to the atrocities that have already taken place and all too sadly, those that will continue to be committed by Russia in ever despicable acts of inhumanity.

In all of this however, Putin has badly miscalculated the resilience and sheer courage of the Ukrainian people to fight for their country and the dire consequences of his actions. In one move, he has committed financial suicide, as the West all too belatedly rush to negotiate deals with other countries to cut their dependence on Russian gas and oil supplies; namely one of its most lucrative exports. Already Germany has halted, perhaps even terminated should common sense prevail, their controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline in light of Russia's incursion into Ukraine, with Mother Merkel having foolishly put too many of her eggs in Putin's energy basket, in what is now seen as an ill-advised and downright foolhardy policy. Sadly all too many European countries have sold their energy soul to the Russian bear, making a coordinated response to the war, one that would have made the Kremlin think twice, all but near impossible, as Putin is only too well aware.

The United Kingdom, whilst not to the same degree, has equally failed to capitalize on its natural resources, given and in a country surrounded by sea and intercut with a labyrinth of rivers, politicians from all sides have repeatedly failed to maximize the use of hydroelectric power; all of which cannot help but make you wonder just who's running the country; those elected to office, or the corporate heads whose interests would not be served by limitless low cost green energy?

Such however is a debate for another day. What we are left with is the bloody reality of Putin's unforgivable actions, having resulted in Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II. Yet amongst all the bloodshed, lies the love and heartfelt compassion of others. From the thousands of people donating the essentials of life to be delivered to those in need, to those of all religious denominations who have given money in person, if not via the dec.org.uk website to the Ukraine appeal, to that of those who and in particular in countries that border Ukraine, notably Poland, have taken in thousands of refugees fleeing the inhumane violence of Putin's war.

As for the United Nations' role in all of this, namely the intergovernmental organization whose purpose is to maintain international peace and security; well and as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pointedly said is his video-link address to the UN on the 5th April: "we are dealing with a state that turns the right of veto in the UN Security Council, into a right to kill." Indeed at this point, I'm reminded of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262, when on the 27th March, 2014 and in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea, the General Assembly affirmed its commitment, albeit nonbinding, to "the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders" or to put this another way: "the principle under international law that prohibits states from the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of another state." No surprise then that in light of this, many view the United Nations as an organization that has seemingly done little since its inception, but to use the word VETO. Indeed and as Zelenskyy bluntly questioned - where is the peace that the United Nations was created to guarantee?

In religion, you're meant to see the good in everyone. Yet I cannot see any good in Vladimir Putin; a cold-blooded mass murderer whose subsequent imprisonment for war crimes, should he ever face trial, would be too lenient a punishment.

That the outcome of the horrific war in Ukraine remains uncertain, is to state the obvious, even if some say that the partition of Ukraine to Russia's strategic advantage is / was Putin's objective from day one. Yet what is already clear is that Putin did not foresee Nato going out of its way to not only strengthen its forces along the Ukraine border, but to increase the militarization of Nato in Europe itself. That the free world will never be the same again, goes without saying. Nor for that matter, will the West ever trust Russia again; that is, should its leaders have been foolish to do so in the first place. For we now see Vladimir Putin in his true loathsome colours; that of a war criminal directly responsible for the massacre of thousands of innocent men, women and children; even pregnant women and babies killed, maimed and left mentally scarred for life. Such is not only to Putin's shame, but to the disgrace of Russia itself.

Sadly the heinous reality of the war in Ukraine, is largely unknown by the majority (?) of the Russian people fed on the state controlled Putin news network. In believing what is morally wrong, is right, they have in effect given Putin complete freedom to act as he so wishes, with anyone of opposing views quickly and often violently removed from sight. That the backing for Putin's abhorrent actions by the Russian people would dramatically weaken, if the war was seen by them in all of its uncut blood and gore, is all but evident. As too, is the fact that will never happen, given and as Jim Morrison of The Doors famously said: "whoever controls the media, controls the mind." And that in a nutshell is what Putin and for that matter, all autocrats fear the most: not NATO, not America, but free speech and the right of a nation to legally elect its representatives in a non-fraudulent election and conversely, and by way of a simple X on a ballot paper – get rid of them. In short; that of democracy itself.

That Russia remains a nuclear power, with Europe's largest conventional military, is a fact that cannot be ignored and whilst the West hopes that the ongoing negotiations for peace are tentative steps that eventually result in a settlement that will save so many lives, such all but depends on the willingness of both parties to come to some form of compromise. Yet with Putin having openly stated that Ukraine is "a country that should not exist," how much hope can there be for a ceasefire, when he's clearly making it his mission to turn those words into a sickening reality. Yet at some point, Putin will want to emerge victorious; whatever the actuality be. As too, is the certitude that the free world will demand justice for the war atrocities that continue to be carried out by Russia's relentless bombing of Ukraine, the loss and outright displacement of the Ukrainian people and the mutilated bodies of those who came face to face with Putin's soldiers of barbarity who knowingly violate the Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflicts; i.e. The Geneva Conventions.

In two years, Paris is set to host the 2024 Summer Olympics; God willing, raising the question of whether or not Russia will be allowed to compete at such a prodigious event. The very thought of Russia holding its head up high, as if the war in Ukraine had not taken place, is frankly as repulsive a thought, as the savagery of the war itself. Only the cold, hard reality is that Western leaders come and go, with their longevity in office largely dependent on domestic policy; rather than foreign. Putin knows this, being equally aware that come the bitter dawn of winter, all too many European leaders will still be heavily reliant, at least at this stage, on Russian gas and oil supplies. Yet they must know that in doing so, they are, in effect, in Putin's pocket. That the West must now re-evaluate their energy needs, is seemingly the sole means by which to diminish the rubles that finance Putin's deplorable wars of attrition and his very power base.

Until then, the free world must unite in letting Russia know the true cost of Putin's actions and how Russia's standing on the world stage is now forever soiled with the blood of Ukraine, the war dead, the mental anguish and suffering of countless children, those who have been tortured, raped or used as human shields, and the millions left to flee their homeland for their very life itself. Put simply; we owe them that. And a lot more.

›› posted: Thursday, 7th April, 2022.

Ukraine: A Political Comment by Gay Celluloid editor-in-chief: David Hall.

›› copyright © 2022 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com ‹‹
›› archive reference #Ukraine ‹‹