Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a naked act of despicable cruelty and unjustifiable aggression towards an innocent people and sovereign nation. It has opened a new dark chapter in Europe, one which will see the re-emergence of a Cold War and an iron curtain dividing Europeans so long as Vladimir Putin is in power.

Putin’s decision to initiate the war has shattered the dream that such a conflict would never be witnessed again in Europe. It defies all norms of civilised behaviour and shows utter disregard for every country’s sovereign right to choose its own destiny.

Putin’s claim that this conflict was provoked by the West and NATO is completely false. Although Ukraine has insisted on its right to join NATO – which Moscow has long objected to – it was never put on a path to membership and there never existed any unanimity within the alliance to allow Kyiv to enter the bloc.  It is true that Moscow has long complained about NATO’s expansion, but enlargement is not something the alliance imposed. It was a response to countries that spent decades under Soviet domination and wanted security guarantees precisely because they still feared Russia.

Another of Putin’s untruths is that this war is about the “denazification” of Ukraine. There are no Nazis in the Ukrainian government. The country’s democratically elected President, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish and speaks Russian as his first language. Ukraine lost close to seven million people in the second world war.

The international community must continue to respond firmly to Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion. It must use its principal weapon, economic and financial sanctions, to contain Moscow’s behaviour. As a first step the US, EU, Britain, Australia and Japan have targeted banks that finance Russian operations and some of Russia’s richest persons, many of them close to Putin.  The EU has also agreed to impose new sanctions on energy and transport sectors, and impose export controls.

Malta must do its part in solidarity with Ukraine

NATO and the US have rightly ruled out any military intervention in Ukraine – the prospect of going to war with a nuclear-armed Russia is simply too horrifying to contemplate.

However, a Russian occupation will likely lead to an insurgency that would cost Moscow dearly, both economically and in the number of casualties. This could prompt more opposition at home, especially from Russians with strong family and cultural ties with Ukraine. However bleak the situation is, the US and the EU should continue to maintain an open channel of communication with Moscow and make it clear they have no quarrel with the Russian people.

Malta must do its part in solidarity with Ukraine. Besides adhering to the EU sanctions, it should immediately stop processing passport applications from Russian nationals through the IIP.

This terrible war has already led to many casualties and thousands of refugees – it is estimated that millions of Ukrainians could flee their homes in the event of a complete occupation. Europe and the entire world must be prepared to accommodate them, and Malta must offer to take its fair share.

A statement to this effect from the prime minister would be welcome. It is important that Robert Abela prepares Maltese public opinion for this eventuality to show we believe in European solidarity. Another thing the Maltese state must do is allow full freedom of expression to street protesters against Putin’s war. Whoever gave the order to remove anti-war symbols outside the Russian embassy on Friday night should be condemned.

It is time for all of the western world to unite against Putin’s brutality.

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