Peace needs to be restored on all sides

March 04, 2022 - 08:11

Peace needs to be restored now, at the negotiating table with Ukraine and Russia, and for the whole world.


Illustration by Trịnh Lập

by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

Peace needs to be restored now, at the negotiating table with Ukraine and Russia, and for the whole world.

After one week of attacks, the Russian Ministry of Defence spokesperson Igor Konashenkov announced, for the first time, that there were 498 Russian casualties and more than 1,500 soldiers wounded.

He also said that 2,870 Ukrainian soldiers and extreme nationalists were killed and 3,700 others wounded.

According to Russia's president, the purpose of this military operation is to disarm Ukrainian forces and stop the rise of extreme-right armed forces that have been carrying out attacks on Russian-speaking communities. 

For days, many cities in Ukraine have been under missile attacks, leading to an endless stream of refugees fleeing the country to Poland and Slovakia in the west, and Moldova and Russia in the south and east.

The images of war recall hard times for Vietnamese who went through so many wars during the last century.

Vietnamese who spent time studying or working in Ukraine when it was part of the then USSR felt as if their hometown was under attack.

"Now in my elderly age, when I saw how Putin's missiles targeted Kiev, I cried like a child," posted a man on his Facebook account.

"[A friend] Sergei wrote to me, 'If I'm still alive, I will visit Việt Nam when this pandemic is over...' I couldn't be more excited thinking about the time I will be able to have a college reunion with him and my fellow students. Look at what's happening now in Kiev."

For him, it is still Kiev as it is named in Russian, not Kyiv as it is named in the Ukrainian language today.  For this Vietnamese man and many others in his generation, the only language to communicate with their college friends and colleagues was and will always be Russian.  

"Now [the situation in Kiev] it is almost the same when we left Kiev to go back home to Việt Nam in the late 1970s. The feeling we were heading to war and never knowing if we would go back," he wrote.

"We left the ruins of the heavy bombing (from US B-52 in 1972) on Khâm Thiên Street in Hà Nội right next to Hà Nội Railway Station to go to what was a real paradise on earth then. We had a really happy six years of studying and living in Kiev, then we headed home to face the Chinese in the border war of 1979.

"The best and most beautiful years of our lives were spent there. Kiev nurtured us as if we were their sons and daughters, when Việt Nam was going through some of its most challenging times.

"We tried to live well during the rest of the hard times. Drafted to fight in the border war, we tried to work our best during dozens of years in Việt Nam, when it was one of the most devastated and poorest countries on earth, to get where we are today. My heart goes out to Kiev and my friends and their families there. Stand strong Kiev, my love." 

This sentiment is widely shared among many Vietnamese, who oppose war in any name or shape.

"Peace should be discussed at the negotiating table, not at the barrel of a gun," said a lawyer, who had run to the northern border during her time in college in 1979 to ask to join a fighting battalion. 

What we have been seeing in the media is the human suffering of conflict. In his speech to call on the Ukrainian people to defend their country, President Zelensky also addressed the Russian-speaking community in Russian, calling on Russian troops to drop arms. 

During the past week, Zelensky was almost left alone when calling NATO for help, but then it said it would send ammunition.

After that, more European countries such as Germany, Spain and Sweden promised to send more weapons.

France vowed to destroy Russia on economic terms.

Russian students currently studying in France, Belgium and Slovakia were expelled.

In sport, the national teams of Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic refused to play against the Russian football team in the next World Cup qualifying round. Russian tennis player Daniil Medvedev spoke up against the war. 

Anna Netrebko, a world-class Russian soprano, was forced to cancel her concert in Denmark and broke her silence this week.

"I am opposed to this war. I am Russian, and I love my country, but I have many friends in Ukraine, and their pain and suffering right now breaks my heart," she said on social media.

"I am an artist, and my purpose is to unite across political divides." 

Uniting people across political divides can feel far-fetched during the escalation of strong sentiments on both sides. But the first round of talks between Ukraine and Russia, though without positive results, gave us all hope that more could be done at the negotiating table instead of the firing of missiles at, supposedly, only military targets.

Many wars and conflicts have broken out this century, in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Israel-Palestine and other hotspots, but this one has received a powerful global reaction right from the beginning, probably because it has the potential to lead to destructive confrontation between the world's strongest military blocs and, many feared, WW III, or even nuclear war.

We must not let this happen. -VNS