Russian Aggression in Ukraine: Not the Whole Story

Conflict with Russia is not the whole story of Ukraine. Don’t miss the rest of the story sometimes buried under the headlines.

Words are a person’s primary instrument, and often the only one, especially when everything else has been taken away. A word can heal or injure, it can save [someone] or kill [them] with the command “Fire!”[…] One can call for restraint and surrender, or do the opposite – urge resistance and battle, even when there is no chance of survival, only certain death. But how long you live is less important than how you live. When you die is not as important as how and for what.

Oleg Sentsov, Ukrainian film maker currently imprisoned by Russia in Siberia

Austrian Airlines in-flight magazine recently referred to Kyiv as one of the top destinations in Eastern Europe, saying it might be missed due to all the other headlines about Ukraine. Headlines, indeed.

Ukraine hit the headlines again recently due to Russian aggression; this time aimed at Ukrainian seamen in the Kerch Strait. While the network news agencies spun the same limited bits of information everything from half-truths to complete fake news was also being bandied about.

But in the shadow of all this an even bigger story was missed by most.

Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian film maker currently languishing in a Russian prison in Siberia, was awarded in absentia the European Parliament’s “Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought” The court process that landed Sentsov in prison has been described by Amnesty International as “an unfair trial before a military court”. Ironically fitting, considering that the prize is named in honor of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and awarded to those who defend human right and fundamental freedoms.

So why is this important? And why is this an even bigger story than one involving international militaries? Sentsov winning the Sakharov Prize is important for how it speaks to the overall bigger story that is Ukraine today.

So what is the bottom line?


> Russian aggression in Ukraine is nothing new, minimally going back 5 years to events in Kyiv.

> Russian involvement in other conflicts in the world (Syria and the US elections, to name a few) is also not new.

> But even more to the point, conflict with Russia is not the whole story of Ukraine.

The Rest of the Story…

It reminds me of sitting as a child with my grandparents and listening to the news on the radio. After the usual updates from around the world of breaking news stories a calm, sonorous bass voice would begin to speak. He would give a more in-depth look at a single story, giving details to paint a complete picture. Finally he would wrap up his story by saying, after a dramatic pause, “And now…for the rest of the story.” That’s when it really got good. That’s when, after having told all the details he now gave you the crucial information that changed everything.

And everyone listening around our table would look at one another and smile. Although it didn’t make up for everything bad that he’d already said – somehow you felt like the scales were balanced a bit more than when he began. You could bare hearing the hard details of some headline news story because you now saw the whole picture of that event. Not a denial of the bad things, or a trivialization or justification but just…the rest of the story. And it helped to put it all into perspective.

What does this mean for you personally?

I long for the day when Ukrainians will quit defining themselves as what they are “not”….not Russian, not part of the USSR, not, not, not…and start simply BEING who they are..resourceful, creative, innovative, resilient and persevering, just for a start.

A wise friend once said that “everyone has two stories of their lives, the good and the bad. And everyone can choose which side they live in day to day.” By listening for “the rest of the story” about Ukraine, beyond the headlines and the hype you have an opportunity to discover and appreciate a country that is so much more than what they are “not”. So here’s a reminder of just a little of the other side of the story of Ukraine:

These and many many more Ukrainians are “the rest of the story”. Oleg Sentsov understood this. He understood the power of words to both give life and take it away. For his words Europe rewarded him with one of their highest honors for freedom while for those same words Russia took his freedom from him. Two sides to the same story.

While Ukraine and Ukrainians are more and more declaring who they ARE through their lives, their innovations and creations, they are blazing the trail that Senstov has already long traveled. He has raised the bar higher, put the spotlight on the rest of the story, and so I’m sure he would also tell you that, in regards to Ukraine. Don’t fill up on one-sided sound bytes that paint a myopic picture of Ukraine. Listen to the rest of the story. Get the facts. Get to the bottom line.