The Pope called Ukraine for peace negotiations with Russia. He obviously doesnʼt know that Russia constantly violates peace agreements and kills the negotiators. Let us remind the history

Serhii Pyvovarov
Kateryna Kobernyk
The Pope called Ukraine for peace negotiations with Russia. He obviously doesnʼt know that Russia constantly violates peace agreements and kills the negotiators. Let us  remind the history

Signing of the Soviet-Finnish treaty at the end of the Winter War after the Kremlin violated the previous non-aggression pact and invaded Finland in 1939.

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Pope Francis once again tried to reconcile the Ukrainians with the Russians — he called on Ukraine to "raise the white flag and negotiate." The Vatican is lucky not to have agreements with the Kremlin, otherwise the Pope would know that the Russians constantly violate treaties and obligations. And they almost never look for at least more or less plausible reasons for this. Russians also practice arresting delegations of negotiators, whose safety was before guaranteed. This is what Russia did at different times not only with Ukrainians, but also with Poles, Hungarians, Finns and many others. Here are five such examples — and this is only during the 20th century.

Invasion of Ukraine, 1918-1919

In the fall of 1917, the Bolsheviks staged an armed coup in Petrograd, and already at the beginning of February 1918, Soviet troops under the command of Mykhailo Muravyov invaded Kyiv and terrorized the city.

In order to escape from the Bolsheviks, on February 9, 1918, the government of the Ukrainian Peopleʼs Republic signed a peace agreement with Germany and its allies in the First World War in Brest-Lytovsk. Under the terms of this agreement, the Germans helped expel Soviet troops from Ukraine and forced the Bolsheviks to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Peopleʼs Republic. Subsequently, in June, the Kremlin signed a preliminary peace agreement with the Ukrainian State of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi.

Meeting of the German, Ukrainian and Soviet delegations at the negotiations in Brest-Lytovsk, January 1918.

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In mid-December 1918, the UPRʼs Directory overthrew the Hetmanate. In the same month, the Bolsheviks launched a new offensive against Ukraine. At the same time, they did not resort to denials such as "we signed peace with the Hetmanate, not with the Directory", but simply stated that their troops were not in Ukraine, and itʼs the army of the "independent Ukrainian Soviet government" which was fighting against the Directory. Using the same tactics, the Bolshevik leader Lenin planned to seize other states that the Kremlin had recently recognized as independent. He stated that the creation of local Soviet governments "deprives Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia of the opportunity to consider the movement of our units as an occupation."

In the fall of 1919, the Ukrainian Peopleʼs Republic actually turned into a state without a territory, trapped in the area of Kamyanets-Podilsky by Poles, Bolsheviks, and the forces of the White Movement. The Ukrainian leadership once again had to choose the best of the worst options — to go to an alliance with the Poles. After all, the Kremlin was seriously planning to "bring happiness to the working people with bayonets through the corpse of lord Poland." That is, to establish Soviet power in other European countries as well. The joint efforts of the Polish-Ukrainian army managed to stop the Bolshevik offensive and defend the Polish state, but not the Ukrainian state. By 1922, most of the modern Ukrainian lands were under Soviet occupation and became part of the USSR.

An ironic poster about the events in Ukraine against the background of the Paris Peace Conference following the results of the First World War. It depicts the attempts of foreign invaders to divide Ukraine into pieces. Published in Vienna in 1919 by Christoph Reisserʼs Söhne.

Invasion of Poland, 1939

After the victory over the Bolsheviks, in March 1921, the Poles signed the Riga Peace Agreement with the Kremlin, according to which the parties divided the Ukrainian and Belarusian lands among themselves. And in order to consolidate friendship for a long time, in 1932 the USSR and Poland also signed a non-aggression pact, which was later extended until 1945.

But in 1939, the USSR changed its mind. In August, two totalitarian states — the Soviet Union and Germany — signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In a secret protocol to it, they agreed to divide Europe into spheres of influence and occupation. And they started with Poland.

On September 1, 1939, the German army invaded Poland from the west. And in the early morning of September 17, 1939, Soviet troops crossed the eastern Polish border. If Hitler staged a provocation in order to have an excuse to attack the Poles, the USSR acted without declaring war at all. Soviet propaganda explained the reason for the invasion as follows: after the German attack, Poland ceased to exist as a state, so Soviet troops were forced to cross the border to protect the inhabitants of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus.

A German military band and a line of Red Army soldiers during a joint Soviet-German parade in Brest after the capture of Poland, September 22, 1939.

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"I was taken to Commander [Ivan] Tyulenev. He lashed out with reproaches, why I did not surrender immediately, resisted, as a result of which the Red Army, entering Poland in a fraternal manner to free the people from the "masters and capitalists", lost many tanks and soldiers. To my remark that the USSR violated the treaty [on non-aggression], I received the following answer: "The Soviet Union has its own policy," recalled Polish general Władysław Anders, who was captured by the Soviets.

In the captured territories, the occupiers staged terror and committed many war crimes, for which the Kremlin has not yet answered. One of the loudest examples is the mass shooting of Polish soldiers in the Katyn forest in the Smolensk region. In the spring of 1940, at the suggestion of the head of the NKVD, Lavrentiy Beria, the highest governing body of the USSR, the Politburo, approved the execution of more than 20,000 Polish prisoners of war.

In the summer of 1945, at the conference in Potsdam, the Soviet dictator Stalin legalized the accession to the USSR of the Polish territories captured at the beginning of the Second World War. And he turned Poland itself into a country of a socialist camp with a puppet government.

A mass burial in the Katyn Forest, discovered by the Germans after the occupation of the Smolensk region in 1943.

Invasion of Finland, 1939

In 1918-1920, Finland managed to defend its independence from the encroachments of the Bolsheviks. In October 1920, the parties signed a peace treaty in the Estonian city of Tartu. In the 1930s, Finland took a course towards neutrality and tried in every way to reinforce it with peace agreements with the USSR. In 1932, the countries signed a three-year "Treaty on Non-Aggression and Peaceful Settlement of Conflicts", which was later extended until the end of 1945. And in 1934, the ten-year "Agreement on Peaceful Coexistence". But even after the first agreement, Stalin declared that the independence of Finland was "gifted" and that the Kremlin "for now tolerates" an independent Finnish state.

In the late 1930s, the USSR began to put pressure on Finland. The Finns were required to host Soviet military bases, then to cede several border islands in the Baltic Sea. Later, a new demand appeared — to move the border on the Karelian Isthmus 90 kilometers west of Leningrad in order to "guarantee its security."

When intrusive diplomacy failed, the Soviet Union took up arms. And to begin with, it staged a provocation — on November 26, 1939, it fired artillery at its own positions near the border village of Mainila and blamed Finland for this. The Kremlin refused a joint investigation of the incident, unilaterally broke the non-aggression pact, and invaded Finland on November 30. Thus began the Soviet-Finnish, or Winter War.

Finnish machine gunners during the Winter War, February 21, 1940.

The Kremlin hoped for a quick victory, but it didnʼt happened. Only in March 1940, at the cost of huge losses, the Soviet troops managed to break through the Finnish defenses. Finland counted on the military support of France and Great Britain, but they hesitated and considered their future involvement until it was too late. Under the threat of full occupation, the Finns had to agree to a peace agreement with the USSR, which entered into force on March 13, 1940. According to its terms, Finland lost a tenth of its territory along with the countryʼs second largest city, Viipuri, which the Russians renamed Vyborg.

In 1941, the outraged Finns agreed to ally with Germany, but put forward a number of conditions: they would join a war only in the event of an attack by the USSR and stop at the borders of 1939. On the morning of June 22, 1941, Soviet aviation and artillery bombarded Finnish cities, but the Kremlin declared that there were no attacks. Then the Finns launched an offensive and by August 1941 returned all the territories lost during the Winter War. But in the end, Finland ended up on the losing side. In 1944, the Finns withdrew from the war, and in 1947 they signed the Paris Peace Agreement, according to which they returned the conquered territories to the USSR and agreed to pay $300 million in reparations.

Finnish soldiers walk past a destroyed Soviet tank, 1944.

Attack on Japan, 1945

In April 1941, the Empire of Japan and the Soviet Union concluded a neutrality pact for a period of five years with the option of its automatic extension until 1951. One of its main points was that the parties undertook to observe neutrality in the event of aggression by a third party against one of them.

The Japanese remained faithful to the treaty when Germany attacked the USSR, which greatly annoyed Hitler. Additional military reserves transferred from the Far East helped Soviet troops hold Moscow at the end of 1941.

Fresh combat units of the Soviet army go to the front near Moscow, December 1941.

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In 1945, when Japan was losing the Second World War, the situation was the opposite. Even then, Tokyo hoped that the USSR would abide by the agreement. And everything seemed to be going well — at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, the USSR did not sign the ultimatum demanding the surrender of Japan. And Soviet diplomats assured the Japanese that the neutrality pact would be valid at least until the spring of 1946. This annoyed the Americans and the British, who persuaded Stalin to declare war on Japan at the meeting in Yalta.

The Japanese hoped that the USSR would become a mediator in negotiations with the United States and Britain and help negotiate better terms to end the war. Everything suddenly changed on the evening of August 8, 1945. Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov summoned Japanese Ambassador Naotake Sato and announced that the USSR was unilaterally breaking the neutrality pact and officially declaring war on Japan. The very next day, Soviet troops on the Far Eastern Front launched an offensive against Japanese-occupied Manchuria, the Korean Peninsula, and Northeast China.

During this war, the Soviet Union captured and incorporated the southern part of the Japanese Kuril Islands. Moreover, the USSR did not legitimize their accession by any international treaty following the results of the Second World War. The territorial dispute over the southern Kuriles between Japan and Russia, as the legal successor of the USSR, continues to this day. In October 2022, Ukraine officially recognized the Kuril Islands as the Northern Territories of Japan, which are under Russian occupation.

Soviet soldiers during the offensive against Japanese-occupied Manchuria, August 1945.

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Invasion of Chechnya, 1999

In 1991, the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria appeared on the territory of the former Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. It legally left the USSR, held presidential and parliamentary elections with the participation of international observers, and adopted its own Constitution in March 1992. In the same year, Chechnya refused to sign the Federative Treaty with Moscow, but instead managed to sign an agreement on the complete withdrawal of Russian (former Soviet) troops from its territory.

The Kremlin tried to win back Chechnya through political and economic pressure. And when that didnʼt work, it launched a military invasion at the end of 1994. The Russians used "scorched earth" tactics — massive aerial bombardment, rocket and artillery shelling of cities and villages, including ammunition prohibited by international conventions. Because of this, thousands of civilians died. The Chechen capital Grozny was particularly affected, its bombing became the largest since the Second World War. The Russians used civilians as "human shields."

A Chechen woman on the streets of Grozny after the fighting, January 5, 1995.

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After several years of fierce fighting, in August 1996, the parties signed the Khasavyurt Agreement to end the war and withdraw Russian troops from the territory of Chechnya. And in May 1997, the presidents of the Russian Federation and Chechnya — Boris Yeltsin and Aslan Maskhadov — signed the Moscow Peace Agreement in the Kremlin. Under its terms, Russia recognized the independence of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and "forever" renounced the use of force in resolving disputed issues.

But the Kremlin was not going to "let go" of Chechnya, fearing that its example would be followed by other nations that remained part of the Russian Federation. In August 1999, the Russians launched a new military invasion. The then head of the FSB and the future "immutable president" Putin promoted himself on it. Russian troops again almost razed Grozny to the ground with prolonged shelling, and by the end of March 2000 they occupied the entire territory of the republic. The independence of Chechnya was eliminated, and a pro-Russian administration headed by Akhmat Kadyrov, the father of the current head of Russia-controlled Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, was installed in half-ruined Grozny.

A poster with Ramzan Kadyrov and Putin on the wall of a war-torn building in Grozny, November 28, 2005.

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Bonus: Arrest of Hungarian delegation at peace talks, 1956

At the end of October 1956, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Budapest. Among other things, they demanded the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country and a review of relations with the USSR, the creation of a new government headed by the communist reformer Imre Nagy, free elections on a multi-party basis, the introduction of democratic freedoms, including freedom of speech, and the dissolution of the secret police.

The anti-government rally turned into an uprising, which the Kremlin tried to suppress with troops and tanks. But nothing came out of the first attempt. Soviet soldiers were forced to flee from Budapest, leaving behind their equipment.

A sign urging Russians to get away on an overturned tram, Budapest, 1956.

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Imre Nagy returned to the post of prime minister, quickly formed a coalition government and appealed to Moscow to withdraw the troops, and to the rebels to stop the violence. The Kremlin recognized Nagyʼs government, agreed to negotiations and offered to discuss the terms of the withdrawal of troops from the Soviet military base near Budapest. Security and inviolability were guaranteed to the Hungarian delegation.

On the evening of November 3, 1956, the Hungarian Minister of Defense Pál Maléter went to the negotiations together with the officers of his headquarters. There they were immediately arrested and sent to Moscow. According to the recollections of Soviet officers, "the Hungarians were stunned, but tried to behave with dignity." After that, the Soviet troops staged a real assault on Budapest, as in the times of the Second World War, with airstrikes and artillery training.

After fierce battles, by November 11, the troops captured Budapest, suppressed the revolution and began repression. Prime Minister Nagy and the remnants of his government hid in the Yugoslav embassy. At the end of November, they were lured out of there by deception — they promised an unhindered departure from the country, but were arrested on the way out instead. Subsequently, Nagy was executed together with Maléter, who had been arrested earlier.

Demonstration of Hungarian emigrants in Munich with portraits of the executed Imre Nagy and Pál Maléter, 1956.

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Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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