Former Estonian minister Raivo Vare said Russia began its campaign in Syria partially to push events in eastern Ukraine into the background.
Estonian Ambassador to Ukraine, Sulev Kannik, said other topics have arisen in international media, but for Ukraine and its citizens, as well as for neighboring countries, Ukraine continues to be a priority.
Vare said Russian attacks on Islamic extremists are partially aimed at drawing attention away from Ukraine, adding that to some extent, this has been achieved.
“Conspiracy theorists say that the migration crisis was also somehow initiated by our eastern neighbor. I am a little skeptical on that. You can always find connections but this is a topic which has been building up for a long while and you cannot say it happened overnight. But the Syria mission is a political, military-technical and geo-political move which took place, looking from the outside, overnight,” Vare said, adding that the Middle East has traditionally been under Russian influence, even during the Soviet period.
Vare said 90 percent of the Syrian army has been trained in the Soviet Union or its neighbors, and 10 percent in France, which he said is no coincidence.
Journalist Peeter Kaldre said separatists in eastern Ukraine began fresh attacks as soon as Russia launched its bombing campaign in Syria.
Kannik said this is worrying for Ukrainians, who had hoped for peace. “The average Ukrainian wants peace – 5-6 mobilizations have taken place, someone from nearly every family was on the front line and fought; there were losses, those injured came back,” he said, adding that where exactly does the border run in eastern Ukraine is not such an important question for the average Ukrainian.
Speaking about politicians currently in power in Kyiv, Kannik said many have accepted the loss of Crimea and are willing to let the separatists live by themselves.
Vare said similarities can be drawn to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have been in a frozen conflict between Russia and Georgia since 1993. He said until the war of 2008, such a situation was successful.
Vare added that Ukrainians are leaning more towards letting eastern Ukraine go. “This is gathering strength among both people on the streets and the political elite as no one sees any other solution,” Vare said.
Editor: J.M. Laats