In a way, there’s been too much freedom to speak about Ukraine these last few weeks. And too much of it has ended up being made far too public.
We’ve been treated (via youtube of course) to leaked private conversations, first on 6th February where US officials discussing the Maidan protests say in no uncertain terms that the EU is useless, then a month later between the Estonian foreign minister and EU foreign affairs chief in which the former seems to question if snipers in Kyiv on 20-21 February were provocateurs. And then there was the document, photographed in a minister’s hand, which indicated that British government policy is to protect above all London’s financial centre, and all the wealthy Russians with money there.
These are voices which a lot of people, most of all the ones doing the speaking, never wanted publicly heard. Russia, presumably, has a great interest in them being heard and it seems fairly likely Russia was behind the first two leaks.
If true, it’s paradoxical. Today’s Russia on the whole has no time at all for freedom of speech. But if it’s an opportunity to discredit opponents or exploit the differences between them, it will of course be as free with other people’s speeches as it wants.
Meanwhile, there have been no leaks at all from the Russian side. Does it mean there is no private discussion to be leaked within government in the RF and its partner countries? Or can it actually be true, that myth, that Putin does not, in fact, talk to anyone?
I believe in freedom to speak, and in freedom of information too. But the information war is a very dirty one, and the way it is being waged in and over Russia and Ukraine right now is particularly vile and dangerous. Leaks like the ones above are a distraction for the ever-hungry media to seize on as if they are important. Incredibly emotive words like ‘fascist’ and ‘nationalist’ and ‘protection’ and ‘invasion’ are being thrown around all over the place, across borders, often by people who really have no idea what they’re talking about. While other people who don’t have much more idea sit in their living rooms lapping it up from the telly and being emotionally coerced into believing it.
Yet there are still so many voices not really being heard. The Crimean Tatars, Krymchaks, Crimean Greeks, and the Crimean Russians who might not be out demonstrating but who do not, actually, want to wake tomorrow living in the Russian Federation. The Russian-speakers in Donetsk and Kharkiv and the RF too (because when I talk about Russia’s interest in freedom of speech who do I mean – the government? The media? Who is this ‘it’?).
What makes a country anyway, whether we mean Ukraine or Crimea or the RF? Ordinary people do. People like you and me, stuck in the middle of this information war, this chaos and redrawing of boundaries and geopolitical ambition. They (we) need to be heard, because they are the ones who have to live most directly with the consequences.