Russia expert Hakan Aksay* writes on the human cost of the Russia-Ukraine conflict for Gazete Duvar, pointing to the suffering ignored in favour of military and political strategies.
Below is the translation of a long excerpt from his article.
Damned be your concern for ‘politics excluding humans’ and your indifference to blooshed
We have been inundated with news of war for the last 15 hours, trying to decide what stories to run, which interviews to conduct, how to select videos, which sources to translate, etc.
Occasionally I get a phone call inviting me to appear on television. They ask me why the war broke out, who would win, where the world would go next. Is Russia getting stronger? Would this be the end of Ukraine?
How many people died in these 15 hours? That is one question I never heard yesterday. And that is the one question I have been pondering.
When I asked the same question in previous conflicts, “experts” told me similar things:
“Of course it is a pity, it’s always the innocent that suffer. But such is war, somebody has to be the victim. They will be forgotten soon. Combat casualties. This is natural.”
There are humane voices coming out of social media, too. We are, on occasion, faced with pain, death, separation.
In one such video, a young Ukrainian man hugs his wife and daughter as he sends them to a safer place. They say goodbye in tears. It is possible that they will never see each other again.
In another video – may be recent, maybe old, I do not know – a Russian soldier answers a phone. The Ukrainian woman on the other end asks about her son’s body, to whom the phone belonged. The Russian soldier who could very well be the one who killed the son can barely speak to the mother; with a knot in his throat, he says, “I am sorry. We are preparing the bodies, they will soon be sent to Ukraine.”
In many others, there are bombs, Russians and Ukrainians killing each other, people fleeing cities. In one of them, a small aircraft drops some bombs in a rural area. The explosion makes a baby cry out, presumably in the house where the recording is made.
Who is putting a baby through such trauma? Why?
Would those responsible be worth a single tear from that baby’s eyes?
I spoke with a friend trying to get away from Kyiv. The stories are terrifying: “People rushed to supermarkets to buy food in the capital. There are crowds at gas stations. Nobody takes cards anymore, there are long queues in front of ATMs. We barely found a car to get away from the city, to head westward.”
Among my Russian and Ukrainian friends, there are conflicting emotions. Some are overjoyed, others in panic. One wrote on Facebook: “My father from Petersburg was among the soldiers who liberated Kyiv in the spring of 1945. How would I explain to him Russian planes bombing Kyiv now?”
Another friend responded: “How would you explain Ukrainian planes killing Russians in Donbas?”
Both are from my alma mater, Leningrad University. I don’t know about real life, but they were friends on Facebook. Well, enemies now, almost.
One of the aspects of the war our journalists pay the most attention to is the Bayraktar TB2 armed unmanned aerial vehicles that Ankara sold to Kyiv and even made a deal to co-produce.
I am more interested in “unmanned” politics.
Persons of “utmost intelligence and education” ignore thousands of deaths as they focus on strategy, politics, military conflicts.
These are the “smart political vendors” who failed to advance to the end stages of how to be human, so their conscience fails.
Some would say that I presented as an expert in Russia and the USSR for years, and now I avoid analysing the war. I won’t. The following article will be on the path to this war and the mistakes made by the West, Russia, Ukraine, and of course, Turkey. I promise.
But I should put this out there now: I do not follow any political leader or state in this war. I do not advocate for any of them. The only thing I support is life. The lives of ordinary people. Or rather, the thing necessary for people to continue to live, for people not to become enemies just because they are from different nations: Peace.
I have been working on news of war for 16 hours straight.
How many more have died in these 16 hours? How many more will?
* Aksay is an alumni of the Leningrad Faculty of Journalism, and has worked as the Moscow correspondent for major Turkish media outlets for years. He is the founding chairman of the Centre for Russian-Turkish Studies, and has participated in many projects on Russian-Turkish relations.