I have been deeply involved in the EuroMaidan movement for the last four months. This was always in my town of Odessa, and I haven’t been to Kiev in this period. Since December, I have been a member of the EuroMaidan Odessa organisational structures. I have been helping with informational work on a daily basis, and also participated in daily meetings (hard to say how many times… some 80 maybe?), and in specific actions. In particular, I co-organised several EuroMaidan chess events. You can read about them at the ChessBase website: http://de.chessbase.com/post/euromaidan-sagt-schach
I cannot exclude that I will continue to be involved in our local civil or political movements, but let’s see. Before it was EuroMaidan versus Yanukovych, but now it is Ukraine versus Putin, so everything has changed now. Except the aim: to preserve Ukraine as a democratic European country.
Since 2012 I have been a co-presenter/writer on the Russian-language chess TV program in Odessa. (There is an English page with information on it at https://mikhailgolubev.wordpress.com/odessa-chess-tv-program) Because of the political events in Ukraine, our program has appeared only once a month in 2014 so far. We will provide the main results of the Khanty-Mansiysk Candidates, that’s for sure, but indeed I am not excited about covering any sporting events in Russia, especially if Ukrainians are not participating. Regarding the mainstream Ukrainian media, they are normally ignoring the Candidates tournament: there is little interest, and not only because of the war.
Indeed I am extremely angry, not only with Putin’s aggression in Crimea, but also with the whole of Putin’s politics towards Ukraine since 2004, which preceded and prepared the current aggression. In 2006, for the first time I openly called Putin’s system a ‘fascist’ one. I also predicted that Putin’s Russia wanted to make a war with one of her neighboring countries. Also I stated then that “protecting the Russia-speaking people” in Crimea would be used as a reason. And, look what followed: the war in Georgia in 2008, and now the invasion of Ukraine. Putin is mad: the main problem with him is that he is not a Russian patriot, he is an USSR patriot. So we will surely have a problem with him, till the end.
Since 2001 when Putin took control over the independent (from the state’s influence) NTV channel, the situation in the Russian media gradually worsened all the time. Now the loyal Ukrainians and the pro-Putin Russian citizens are usually unable to understand each other. People are losing normal contacts with relatives and friends – I am reading and hearing such stories all the time. In Russia, they have only one (Putin’s) opinion, dominating the public sphere. And the extent of anti-Ukrainian propaganda and hysteria is enormous lately.
It is the truth that in Southern and Eastern parts of Ukraine opinions are divided: there are significant groups of pro-Putin people, amongst those who are listening to all these Russian media. But I would say that pro-Russian sentiments in Odessa, though it is a predominantly Russian-speaking town and region, are incomparably less strong and common than in the Crimean Autonomy. There, people are different, and many Crimeans somehow really felt in all these years of Ukrainian independence that they had become a part of Ukraine by mistake, that they normally should belong to Russia, and so on.
This is a simplification, and is not an excuse for occupying the Crimea by Putin’s forces, but it can explain (indeed, together with the fact that Russia had preserved a military base in Sevastopol) why everything turned relatively easily for Russia in Crimea. Now, Ukraine is considering Crimea as a temporarily occupied territory. We are preparing for a Russian invasion in other parts of Ukraine, which, unfortunately, is not impossible. If Russia does this, we will have to defend our territory, kill their soldiers and stop them, what else to do.
I can add my opinion (which is rather usual for a Russian-speaking, pro-European Ukrainian) that the ethnically Russian people and the Russian-speaking people in Ukraine in fact have more rights than in Russia! And, I am constantly insulted by the official Russian practice to call the Russian-speaking people in Ukraine (and other former USSR republics) their ‘compatriots’. This is aggressive nonsense. Russia is just a different country to us, and now, until some kind of peace pact is signed, it is also our direct enemy.
As a member of the Ukrainian Chess Federation’s media commission I have already expressed a desire that the UCF will find a way of preventing the participation of Sergey Karyakin and Anatoly Karpov in the Sberbank tournament, scheduled to take place in Kiev in May. Both of them have publicly supported what was done by their country in Crimea, they have made their own choice, and personally I do not think that after that, their participation in a tournament in Ukraine is suitable.
Speaking about the Ukrainian grandmasters, while most of them are indeed opposing the Russian aggression, I do not expect many of them to boycott tournaments in Russia. Life in professional chess in not easy, and players (not only Ukrainian) are not known to be particularly principled on political issues! But let’s see: everyone has to decide for him/herself.
You know, I have been more a journalist than a player for years. I still have good contacts with some chess-players, and with some other people in Russia. But with those Russian citizens who are not opposing Putin I would now hesitate to contact in any way. They still do not understand what they have done.