West repeating WWII mistakes in Ukraine conflict: Russian ambassador to Singapore

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A Ukrainian soldier poses next to a destroyed Russian tank in a village near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on 5 May 2022. (PHOTO: Reuters). Russian ambassador Nikolay Kudashev (PHOTO: Russia's embassy in Singapore)
A Ukrainian soldier poses next to a destroyed Russian tank in a village near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on 5 May 2022. (PHOTO: Reuters). Russian ambassador Nikolay Kudashev (PHOTO: Russia's embassy in Singapore)

This is the second of a two-part interview by Yahoo News Singapore with Nikolay Kudashev, Russia’s ambassador to Singapore. The first part was published on Thursday (5 May).

SINGAPORE — The West is repeating the mistakes that led to the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany during World War II in the current conflict in Ukraine, said Nikolay Kudashev, the newly appointed Russian ambassador to Singapore.

In a recent phone interview with Yahoo News Singapore, Kudashev also criticised Western countries for not acknowledging the contributions of the Soviet Union towards victory during what Russia calls The Great Patriotic War from 1941 to 1945.

His comments come as the Ukraine war enters into a third month. Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbour on 24 February has led to international condemnation and a slew of sanctions against the Kremlin.

Prior to the outbreak of WWII on 1 September 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a Non-Aggression pact on 23 August 1939 including a secret protocol to partition Poland by both sides and demarcate other spheres of influence. The agreement was terminated on 22 June 1941, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

Kudashev claimed that the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies are building the grounds in Ukraine to repeat the tragedy of WWII.

“As was the case of the Great Patriotic War, one of the reasons (for its outbreak) was the Western countries completely ignoring the (warning) calls of Russia, and this inspired the Nazis, fascists and fuelled their appetite to move to the east,” Kudashev said.

“Unfortunately, this tragedy repeats itself with the events in Ukraine with the US and its NATO allies instigating the fascists, extremists, and neo-Nazis in Ukraine to aim at Russia as their target.”

Russia has warned for years against NATO expansion in eastern Europe and flagged the possibility of military conflict with the West over the issue.

All the former members of the Warsaw Pact except Russia, the successor state of the Soviet Union, are now members of NATO, including East Germany through its unification with West Germany and the Czech Republic and Slovakia following the split of Czechoslovakia. Comprising socialist countries, the Warsaw Pact served as a counterweight to NATO during the Cold War.

Three Baltic states that formed part of the Soviet Union – Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania – are also NATO members.

Ukraine prioritised joining NATO as a member following Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014. But its plan appears to be wavering amid the latest conflict, with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky recently saying that his country cannot be a NATO member for now. Russia has repeatedly warned Ukraine of serious consequences if it were to join NATO.

Accusations of Russian war crimes in Ukraine

The ongoing conflict has led to accusations from Western leaders and Ukrainian officials of war crimes and indiscriminate destruction of infrastructure committed by Russian forces across Ukraine.

Among them, Zelensky said on 4 April that Russian forces have committed “real genocide” in Bucha, where hundreds were reportedly killed in the city near the capital Kyiv. The mayor of Mariupol, Vadym Boychenk, told The Associated Press a week later that more than 10,000 civilians had died during the Russian siege of the Ukrainian port city.

When asked about the accusations, Kudashev vehemently slammed the “fake and absolutely baseless” claims by Ukraine.

“Quite to the contrary, the Russian military in Ukraine is extending large-scale humanitarian assistance to the local population and is securing the humanitarian corridors, be it in Mariupol, be it in Odessa, to be kept open,” Kudashev said.

“It is the Ukrainian nationalists, extremists who used the civilian population as their shield and who are blocking the humanitarian corridors to take military advantage of that.”

Viewing Ukraine conflict through WWII lens

Servicemen march during the military parade marking the 76th anniversary of the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War, Russia's term for World War II, on Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2021. (Photo by Evgeny Sinitsyn/Xinhua via Getty Images)
Servicemen march during the military parade marking the 76th anniversary of the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War in Moscow on 9 May 2021. (PHOTO: Xinhua via Getty Images)

In his announcement of the “special military operation” in Ukraine on 24 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin invoked WWII by saying the operation was “to protect the people who have been subjected to abuse, genocide from the Kiev regime” and to “demilitarise and denazify Ukraine".

On Monday (9 May), Russia will celebrate what Putin calls as the country’s “biggest holiday”: the commemoration of the 77th anniversary of its victory against Nazi Germany and the Axis Powers in a colossal war that caused the deaths of as many as 27 million Soviet citizens. Kudashev said Putin will lead the festivities, with millions of people gathering in Russian cities and holding photos of their forefathers who led the Soviet Union to victory.

A longstanding bone of contention for Russia is the failure of the West to adequately acknowledge the Soviet Union’s role within the victorious Allies during WWII. A resolution passed by the European Parliament in 2019 condemned – among other things – the Russian government for continuing to “whitewash communist crimes and glorify the Soviet totalitarian regime” and urged Russia to come to terms with its “tragic past” in WWII and the 20th century.

In a lengthy commentary published in 2020 in National Interest, a US international relations magazine, Putin lambasted Western “historical revisionism” over WWII and said, “The Soviet Union and the Red Army, no matter what anyone is trying to prove today, made the main and crucial contribution to the defeat of Nazism.”

Echoing Putin’s position, Kudashev said, “They (Western countries) are not just diminishing the role, they would not acknowledge the contributions of the Soviet Union towards the sacred cause of victory. They are putting in question the basis of the post-world war order.”

The ambassador suggested that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine serves as a reminder not to forget the lessons of WWII and urged the world to preserve the heritage of the war’s victory.

“We face the dangers and tragedy of war together. There is no reason for us to be separated. This is my message for the people of Singapore on the eve of the coming (9 May) celebrations.”

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