Alain Boinet. This article commits only me.
In Ukraine, this is not a humanitarian crisis, it is a war whose consequences will lead to an immense human catastrophe. After a conversation between Emmanuel Macron and Vladimir Putin on March 3, the Elysée declared that “Putin’s goal is to take all of Ukraine”, concluding “the worst is yet to come”.
This is evident in the fighting for the cities of Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kiev, which is intensifying. The battle for the capital is combined with its encirclement. Will these cities suffer the fate of Aleppo or Grozny? We can fear their destruction in a country of 44 million inhabitants with numerous cities that are urban fortresses for the Ukrainian resistance.
We have already experienced wars in Sarajevo, Kabul or Beirut and we know the devastating power of these. Conversely, we also know the resilience of these wars. But the war in Ukraine is of another dimension.
Firstly, because it is a powerful conventional Russian army that employs cruise missiles, a large artillery including the terrifying “Stalin’s organs” and an air force that still has total control of the air space. Secondly, because the warlord who started the battle is Vladimir Putin, whose determination to achieve his goals is well known.
But the Ukrainian resistance is impressive in its patriotism and determination among a population that is preparing, with its armed forces fiercely defending the terrain, to resist by welcoming the Russian army with weapons in hand in a street fight in cities they know well.
Every day, that’s 150,000 more refugees !
The humanitarian consequences are there to testify to the intensity of the fighting, even though it is taking place on the ground in only half of the country. According to a tweet from Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, published on March 6 at 9:57 am, in 10 days the number of refugees who have left Ukraine is 1.5 million, including 920,000 for Poland alone! How many days, weeks will the war last at an average of 150,000 refugees per day!
Philippe Bonnet of the humanitarian association « Solidarités International »who is in Ukraine testifies. “Among the victims of the war, there are three categories. There are the populations directly affected by the fighting on the front line, such as in Zhitomir, Kiev and Kharkiv, who need emergency aid to cope with the destruction of infrastructure (water, electricity, heating) and the slowdown or breakdown of supply chains (food, medicine). There are the displaced people who are fleeing and, finally, there are the refugees in neighboring countries.
The escalation of the war is inevitably leading to an increase in basic needs and requires an accelerated increase in humanitarian relief. According to the United Nations, «18 million people are expected to be affected, including up to 6.7 million newly internally displaced persons » (www.unocha.org). This shows the extent of the humanitarian needs for people who have lost everything. The March 1st emergency appeal of the United Nations and its partners is for 1.7 billion dollars, including 1.1 billion for the next 3 months to help 6 million Ukrainians inside the country.
The war of cities and humanitarian corridors.
It is certainly not the money that will be lacking, but the access of relief supplies to the population in many cities and Oblasts (provinces) due to fighting, population movements, stretching of supply chains and changes in the situation. For example, the humanitarian corridor has already failed twice to evacuate the population from the port of Mariupol, which is surrounded by the 58th and 49th Russian armies. These are mainly women, children, elderly people but also sick and disabled people.
As Frédéric Joli, spokesman for the ICRC in France, rightly says, the idea of a “corridor often mentioned is complicated to put in place”. And even if a corridor ends up being organized in Mariupol and Volnovakha as Vladimir Putin has just mentioned, this will not sound the end of the fighting since Ukrainian soldiers and armed civilians will continue to fight in the city. Will it be possible to resupply a city in which civilians decide to stay? How will the MSF team and the hospitals in Mariupol receive medicine? What will happen to the injured soldiers?
This is why we must strongly call for the respect of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which requires a distinction between combatants and non-combatants, as well as access for relief and humanitarian operations. For obvious reasons, there is currently a strong diplomatic and humanitarian concentration in Lviv, the large city in western Ukraine, 70 km from the Polish border. The challenge now is to coordinate the delivery of relief supplies across the country to the most urgent areas.
A war that could last.
It is the Chief of Staff of the French Armed Forces, General Thierry Burkhard, who says “The Russian steamroller may end up passing”. In a country of 660,000 km2 with a population of 44 million, the Ukrainians have decided to resist everywhere, sometimes even by launching counter-offensives. A war on the Russian rear could happen and spread. This war will be more destructive than expected for the Russians, but it will be an ordeal for the Ukrainians. Unless a diplomatic solution prevails in the end!
In any case, this war in the heart of our continent is a tragedy and a failure for Europe and its countries, which have neither made it unnecessary nor prevented it. If Vladimir Putin is indeed the invader, others in the West have long played with fire! This is a dangerous geopolitical break. History will judge.
We take the human measure of this bloody failure when we see on television these men who accompany their wives and children to the border and then return to the war. When multiple rocket launchers crush a building here and a heating or water station there. Or when the sirens sound and we rush to the cellars or the subway. And we are warned, “the worst is yet to come”.
Faced with the worst, for those who have only solidarity as a weapon, the mission is simple, obvious and is imposed as a duty. Not to leave the victims without help and comfort with the hope of a negotiated solution!